Art Republic Gallery in Soho were going to put on an exhibition of Chemical X’s latest artwork due to start on Friday 17th May 2013, however because the artwork contained two pieces made up of over 12,000 ecstasy tablets, perhaps rather unsurprisingly, the art gallery’s lawyers advised against the exhibition going ahead and the gallery pulled out at the last minute.
Chemical X is the artist. He famously designed the Ministry of Sound Logo. He has also worked with Snoop Dog and DJ Paul Oakenfold.
The artwork causing the controversy is a 6 ft skull and cross bones called Love & Death valued at £100,000 and a giant multi-coloured circle made up of the tablets called Taste the Rainbow that looks like a psychedelic wheel of rock, clearly referencing candy or candy kid ravers, on sale for £75,000.
The art gallery’s reason for dropping the show was down to the fact that they did not realise the artwork was made up of real ecstasy tablets. Once this fact was known, their lawyers advised them that they could not have anything illegal in their gallery.
It goes a little bit further than that – to sell the artwork – could be supplying class A drugs, over 12,000 tablets worth.
According to the Evening Standard newspaper, the Artist’s spokesman Marc Woodhouse – said that the way the artwork is constructed, is that the tablets are sealed within them and therefore to get to the tablets you would have to shatter the objects.
Mr Woodhouse further explained that the whole purpose of the artwork is not to challenge the authorities on drugs (presumably the classification or even illegality) but to challenge people’s perception of drugs. As reported in Fact Magazine, the artworks focus is on the social drug taking culture and how the public’s attitude has been shaped by the media’s perception of it.
He also argues that “These need to be viewed as works of art as they stop being drugs from the point at which that are permanently sealed into the pieces.”
Chemical X is currently looking for other venues to show this exhibition. However I am unsure how any art gallery will get round the problem of the drugs being an illegal substance. It maybe that Chemical X will need to replace the tablets with fake ones after all.
If you found this art gallery’s dilemma interesting – then see also my article on the art photograph that offended a passing police officer’s sensitivities as it could be seen as pornographic: Will Zeus Mount Opposition – A criminal offence or just offensive.