June 12, 2007 / 5:46 PM / 13 years ago

Famed excremental art may just be plaster

LONDON, June 12 (Reuters) - Tins sold for thousands of dollars to collectors and museums as works of excremental art by famed Italian artist Piero Manzoni may not actually contain any of the artist’s faeces.

Comments by fellow artist Agostino Bonalumi, who told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera this week that the 90 tins of “Artist’s Shit” had nothing in them but plaster, have provoked a response from a museum which paid more than 20,000 pounds for one of them.

A spokeswoman at the Tate museum in London insisted that the revelation did not invalidate the tin as a work of art.

“Keeping the viewer in suspense is part of the work’s subversive humour,” she said.

Early in his career, Bonalumi worked with Manzoni in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The two rebelled against the conformity of the traditional Italian art scene and sought to play with the expectations of buyers.

Before his death in 1963, Manzoni said he hoped his work would “expose the gullibility of the art-buying public”.

The suggestion was that anything an artist made could be rendered as valuable, even if it was simply a series of re-labelled tin cans containing human excrement.

Manzoni produced the work in 1961, labelled each tin as “100 percent pure artist’s shit” in Italian, French, German and English” and sold them for the price of their weight in gold.

Bonalumi’s assertions that the key element of this work is in fact missing, suggest the art world has been doubly duped.

The Tate declined to say if the news would change the value of its tin of “Merda d’Artista.”

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