Merda d’artista

Day 49: 2 clementines, 1 chocolate brownie, 1 apricot and almond tart; curry with spinach and potatoes, two flat breads; half avocado, half fennel and half kohlrabi, fagioli all’uccelletto, 2 slices of rye bread.

It didn’t fit inside the can – or better, it would have fitted if I pushed it in, but I didn’t want to do that, just in case the bag broke. I could have put an empty plastic bag inside the can, or even nothing, and then told you that the shit was there. You would have never known. Just like those who bought a can of Piero Manzoni’s Merda d’Artista will never know if what is inside the can is actually shit or just plaster, as some have suggested.

In 1961, Manzoni, a Milanese lefty boy from a wealthy family, filled 90 cans with what he said was 30 gr of his own shit at his dad’s cannery. Tate Modern got one. I love this work. I love how it mocks the art world, while raising questions about the commodification of art, its value, mass consumption, but also about the act of creation, the making process and its place within all this.

I think what is really great about using shit in art it is that it’s something inescapable that everyone has to deal with: we all take a shit, we all eat and we turn that into shit, we are all creators of something – even if sometimes that’s just shit! In this sense, shit breaks barriers across all classes of society. And I like that.


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