East London artists D*Face and the Chapman Brothers are having a scrap over whose idea it was to graffiti over banknotes. In brief: Jake and Dinos Chapman made a big show of defacing £10 and £20 notes at the Frieze Art Fair this year and D*Face — who has been doing this for years — cried foul, telling The Independent:
I did a project in 2003 where I got £20 notes and defaced them before putting them back in the system. There were 20 variations of hand drawings and printing techniques in which the monarchy is satirised, with images of the Queen being hung, having her head chopped off. Last April, I marked her 80th birthday by showing her dead, with a skull and crossbones… It seems that inspiration for the Chapman Brothers’ latest work pays more than a striking resemblance to mine. But it’s just not as good and two years later. These are mainstream artists stealing from sub-cultural artists.
The Chapman Brothers have fought back, with Jake saying “Drawing on money is as original as graffiti and that is as old as the Caves of Lascaux. It’s not a great revelation to draw on money. It’s not original. What’s interesting is that because it’s unoriginal, it’s authorless. No one can claim ownership of it. It’s strange for someone to claim authorship of graffiti which is by its very nature an avoidance of the notion of authorship,” he said. He added the Frieze work could not have been inspired by D*Face’s work, because neither had ever seen any of it.
Now, subverting money is nothing new — hell, we used to get invites to the Sensateria club that were defaced dollars — but D*Face does seem to have a point. And, more importantly, he’s not getting to invoice for his work and the Chapmans are. So we asked him for a follow up quote on this story:
The point I was making when I saw the Chapman brothers ‘defaced notes’ was nothing to do with Graffiti, for them to pull a comment like that was laughable, just look at their background and mine. Nobody owns or should own graffiti, it’s power to the people, the the every man and woman’s freedom of expression, void of any need for an artistic background or gallery curator, so for 2 artists that have NEVER dabbled or even tried to do graffiti and have been carefully curated into existence they should be the last people to make a graffiti led argument.
When I saw the dead Queen note that they’d used for their press release and fed to their PR agency it it was simply a case of letting the pictures do the talking. There’s not a person out there that cannot look at the two notes and say that their note was not ‘inspired’ by mine. The fact there was a huge paste up at the bottom of their street that I put there over 2 years ago (and still remains today), makes the point of where they got their inspiration from very very clear. This is just another case of the establishment or the established stealing from the subcultures. It just so happened I know the art editor of the Independent and when she saw their note, she called me up as annoyed as I was to see this.
To claim they never heard of me is funny, my assistant works weekends in a trainer shop the Chapmans regularly go in, which is also near my studio, a few months back he had to walk with Jake Chapman to drop some shit they’d brought off to their apartment, as they walked along he mentioned he worked for me and pointed out the Dead Queen poster as reference to my works… but somehow they forgot this and who I am… convenient?
At the end of the day the simplest way to end this debate of authorship is to let the pictures do the talking, after all a picture speaks a thousand words.
We’re on the side of the angels with dirty wings…
With thanks to King Adz.