Wet Paint in the Wild: Artist Monsieur Zohore Rode Out His L.A. Gallery Opening Inside a Bespoke Coffin-Turned-Kissing Booth

Welcome to Wet Paint in the Wild, the freewheeling—and free!—spinoff of Midnight Publishing Group News Pro’s beloved Wet Paint gossip column, where we give art-world insiders a disposable camera to chronicle their lives on the circuit. To read the latest Wet Paint column, click here (members only).

Monsieur Zohore’s absurd, irreverent artwork tends to steal the show wherever it’s on view. While the artist is best known for his paintings on paper towels and his confrontational, campy performances, Zohore’s work often makes people laugh at first, then realize that these pieces are searing satires of deeply troubling racial realities in America.

His new show at M+B in Los Angeles, “My Condolences,” is a satire of the outsized trend of figurative painting by Black artists in the art market. The artist asked 93 different artists to paint, while at the opening, Zohore lied in a handmade casket and asked viewers to kiss him through a cut-out in the wood (it’s on view now through February 18th). Let’s take a look at what that process was like…

Bonjour, je m’appelle Monsieur Zohore and welcome to the installation of my most recent show “MZ.25 (My Condolences)” at M+B in Los Angeles. Putting a show together with 93 artists in it was an all-hands-on-deck kind of situation. Even my gallerist, Benjamin Triggano, was doing construction work.

A lot of people thought I had a death wish when I told them I was trying to get 93 artists to make portraits of me, to which I would respond “No, I have a death wish because my contribution to the show is a coffin that is also a kissing booth.”

If all of this wasn’t enough chaos I decided to crank out a few more of my paper towel paintings just for shits and gigs.

A long day wouldn’t be complete without a long dinner with my two favorite French clowns, Benjamin Triggano and Olivier Babin. Meals with them are always dinner and a show.

Planning meetings with Tess from the gallery all took place at a Lisa Vanderpump establishment because why not? You know you would too if you could. Here we are in front of Sur.

This was the most innovative install I have ever experienced. Benson from the gallery had a solution for every problem, like how to reheat pizza at lunch.

A show of 93 portraits meant 93 sittings. Here I am after posing for Marianne Simnet at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

Closed out this day with a bougie sushi dinner with Cameron Patricia Downey, who flew in from Minneapolis for the show.

Back at the gallery on the last day of install and it’s go big or go home, like this massive Fawn Rogers video sculpture. Pro Tip: Track suits from Target make your ass look great.

Had to move the studio outside…for my hangover after having too many bougie sushi martinis at dinner last night.

But here comes my bestie Jo Messer to the rescue. She always knows exactly what I need to get through the day.

Install is finally over and I go look for a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T with LaKela Brown.

You haven’t lived till you give a lecture in a coffin you built for yourself.

I never thought my last supper would be vegan tacos in L.A. with Sandy Williams IV, Aaron Fowler, LaKela Brown, and Claude Wampler, but I can’t say I mind.

Claude Wampler told me It’s bad luck to not buy a new outfit for your opening so we had to go shopping.

And it’s even worse luck to not have you fit cosigned by the baddest chick in the room. Thank god Chiristina Ine-Kimba Bolye waltzed in just in time.

I hope you didn’t think I was kidding when I said I built myself a coffin that is also a kissing booth.

Could have done this piece all day. My only regret is not charging for the privilege of my smooches.

Performance is over and it’s finally time to party. Nicole Nadeau and Jade Catta-Preta gas me up as I wait for my celebratory special chocolate to kick in.

My chocolate finally hits and I decided to spend the rest of my opening rolling around on the floor. Thank god Lucy Bull was down.

Who else would you want driving the getaway car than Auttriana Ward in this wig! My mind on chocolate could not be more pleased!

Not sure who took this picture but bless them for making sure I looked my best.

Nothing is better for a hangover than gossiping with Claude Wampler over lobster.

This was my first time going to the beach in L.A. and I have to say it was worth the wait… even if I had to simulate my own death to get there.

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Wet Paint in the Wild: Performance Artist Miles Greenberg Transforms Into St. Sebastian—Arrow Piercings and All—at the Louvre

Welcome to Wet Paint in the Wild, the freewheeling—and free!—spinoff of Midnight Publishing Group News Pro’s beloved Wet Paint gossip column, where we give art-world insiders a disposable camera to chronicle their lives on the circuit. To read the latest Wet Paint column, click here (members only).

On the heels of his remarkable outing in the New Museum’s atrium, performance artist and sculptor Miles Greenberg is beginning to seize the art world by storm.

The 25-year-old artist, who has studied under such legends of performance art as Marina Abramović and Robert Wilson, was invited to the Louvre to perform and film his new work Étude Pour Sébastien (2023), which sees the artist engage with a durational performance at night in the storied museum, painted and pierced with real arrows.

I am truly beside myself that I get to share a preview of the making of the film, which premieres at the Louvre on January 19, and online January 26, here in Wet Paint in the Wild for you fine folks. Take it away, Miles!

We set up shop in the Hotel Du Louvre. I was happy they’d given us the room that was behind the letter “L” in Louvre on the sign on the façade facing the Comédie Française. You could see the big letter from the bed and that felt like a good omen. I started getting into paint around 3 p.m., and I bought a €20 hoodie from the tourist shop across the street (“PARIS” embroidered on the chest) to avoid fucking up the hotel bathrobe too severely.

I also bought myself some roses. €4.

To put in sclera lenses, you have to imagine shoving a Canadian $2 coin into your eye socket like a vending machine. They’re about two and a half centimeters across and cover every visible bit of white. Your eye just vanishes.

At around 5:06 p.m. we rushed out of the hotel; my boyfriend, Viðar Logi, my best friend in Paris and former roommate Rachel Halickman (she’s a vintage fashion archivist who moonlights as my stage manager for all my shows in France), two journalists, two makeup artists, a piercer, a filmmaker, and then me, wearing a bathrobe, slippers, a hoodie, and sunglasses. We brought our own food and water in two massive Monoprix bags.

We arrived at a secret side entrance at exactly 5:10, where the camera crew and the curator’s assistant were waiting for us with our badges. We made our way down through winding corridors until we got to a wide passageway where the last tourists were slowly filing out. The museum was still open until 6 p.m. The camera crew went ahead to load in gear while I sat behind a large Egyptian column and waited until the coast was clear. When it was, I was escorted to Cours Marly. Now, the museum was closed, and we were locked inside.

Cours Marly is my favorite room at the Louvre. It’s so grandiose in its proportions yet still feels incredibly quiet. Each piece in it is full of movement. All statues originally came from the garden of Louis XIV’s second home west of Versailles called Chateau de Marly.

Two of the larger marbles are personifications of river spirits representing the Seine and the Marne rivers, respectively. A third one depicting Neptune sits between the two.

The piercer, whom I found through a friend of a friend of a friend of Ron Athey (legend), set up her tools in the security guards’ break room nearby. Her job was to mark the spots we’d be piercing the arrows through my body (pec, hip, shoulder, ribs), disinfect the area, and run the sharp tip through my skin.

After some camera tests and light stretching, we started the hard part. Océane, our piercer, began prepping the area.

Getting stabbed is a very frightening kind of pain. I wouldn’t recommend it. Your body knows that when a large-ish sharp object punctures your skin, there’s a good chance it might kill you, so your whole body just floods with adrenaline. Both my sight and my hearing all but disappeared for about 20 solid seconds. I later learned that this sensory shutoff is a natural response your body produces when it thinks you might be about to die. It’s so that you can avoid feeling a painful death. I somehow find that kind of comforting. Our bodies take really good care of us.

Anyway, I felt like I was dying for about a minute, slumped over in the sofa and dripping with cold sweat. After that minute passed though, a total transformation took place. My body became light and strong. It was just like the feeling of breaking a fever, times 1,000. I sat bolt upright with a flash of energy. It felt like my peripheral vision expanded by an extra 1,000; I could feel every inch of my body so acutely; I was so laser focused that I could count the hairs in someone’s eyebrow.

I barely felt the second one.

I thought that blood trickle looked so hot.

The blood is done coagulating, so we do some paint retouching.

7:30, I head into the main space. The cameras are ready and I’ve peed at least thrice.

I really liked this guy with his goat.

I performed about five hours as Saint Sebastian. Starting completely immobile, I very, very slowly would shift into every pose of his I knew from every painting, sculpture and etching in my memory. I felt the arrows like beams of light shooting through my body while I felt my heart rate slow in the freezing cold empty stone room. I became a stone, too.

After about an hour of quasi-stillness, I gradually began to ambulate through the space. Eventually I started going up and down stairs, interacting with the other sculptures, lying down, playing with the arrows, even running. My brain began to shut off then and everything was intuitive—I barely remember what I did.

After five-ish hours were up, the Océane came back down and we took out the arrows, one by one. I suddenly felt very cold. She patched me up as they started to pack the equipment. I called cut, the crew wrapped, and while I sprinted up to the break room, sat down absolutely giddy and ate half a loaf of rice bread. I asked the curator if I could go see the Mona Lisa, I was flatly denied.

We were led out of the Louvre through the glass pyramid. The security guards escorted us all with a flashlight out into the moonlit atrium, where we were greeted by the sound of german shepherds (!!!!!!) gnashing their teeth, ready to run after us. We hurried out of the building, all laughing and out of breath. The outer fence was closed for the night, so we had to toss all the camera equipment over and scale it to get out. I lit up a celebratory cigarette, like someone who’d just had sex. We all lingered a bit after having shared such a surreal experience, but eventually said our goodbyes.

Viðar and I got back to our hotel room around 1:30 or 2 a.m. I took three long showers (the bathtub looked like we’d performed an exorcism in it by the time I was finished), and then we crawled into bed and watched Hunter x Hunter until we passed out. I slept for about 10 hours.

The scarring was very minimal the next morning, you could barely see them. I felt fine the next day, just a bit sore.

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Museums Are Dipping Their Toes Into the Wild World of NFTs. Here Is What They Need to Know Before Plunging All the Way In

NFTs have roused major interest (and cash) on the commercial side of the art world of late. This summer, the omnipresent blockchain-based collectibles made the leap into the institutional landscape of museums, after a small but notable delay.

Several public collections from around the world have taken the bait, announcing that they would sell NFT versions of their art. For some, it was in hopes of recuperating money that was lost during the pandemic. For others, it was a curatorial exploration or display of institutional power. For all of them, it’s been a way to stir up attention and a bid to reach new audiences.

A quick run-down of recent museum NFT initiatives: the tech-loving Uffizi in Florence sold an NFT of a painting by Michelangelo, Doni Tondofor a cool €140,000 ($170,000) in May. More recently, this month, the Hermitage announced its plan to sell several NFTs connected to masterpieces from its collection, hot on the heels of the Kansong Art and Culture Foundation in Seoul’s decision to tokenize a national treasure to help keep its operation afloat. The Whitworth in Manchester is also incorporating a major NFT sale of William Blake’s work, The Ancient of Days NFT, into an exhibition about the economy.

It seems that despite the divergent tacks, NFTs are becoming something like a new form of digital merch—albeit with a potentially heftier price tag than, say, Mona Lisa tea towels or limited edition silk scarves printed with Monet’s flowers. But as with any new medium, there are sure to be growing pains. Are museums jumping in too soon? And as countries consider new legislation to govern the cryptocurrency trade, what are the pitfalls?

“This may sound like science fiction, but with the NFT explosion, this transformation is happening much faster than museums may realize,” said Jason Bailey, cofounder and CEO of Club NFT.

Cinello founder and CEO Franco Losi (L) and Uffizi director Eike Schmidt (R) with Michelangelo's Doni Tondo (1505-06).

Cinello founder and CEO Franco Losi (left) and Uffizi director Eike Schmidt (right) with Michelangelo’s Doni Tondo (1505-06), which sold as an NFT this summer.

New Funds, New Patrons

“My own kids don’t know who William Blake is, but they know what an NFT is,” said Alistair Hudson, the director of the Whitworth, speaking on the phone from Manchester.

He sees the advent of NFTs as an opportunity to achieve two goals at once: to offer education on digital collectibles and reach new audiences. “We are not doing this just to make money or to look at it is as a commercial revenue stream, but as part of our intellectual and curatorial considerations,” Hudson said. “NFTs are being exchanged and traded by school kids and also in the upper end of the market by digital billionaires, showing the power of your wallet. The whole thing is a demonstration of financial power.”

The institution has a particularly thoughtful approach: They will sell 50 NFTs of William Blake’s 1794 work The Ancient of Days on the eco-friendly NFT marketplace Hic et Nunc (actually, they are using multispectral imaging equipment to generate something that is an interesting new high-tech version of the familiar image).

Crucially, profits from the sale will go towards the Whitworth’s community projects, and the museum is hoping it will generate a revenue stream that lasts for years to come. That is because written into the blockchain are smart contracts enshrining royalties to the museum every time one of the Blake works is resold.

“We are interested in looking at how we can recalibrate the economic system of the museum to fit with the shape of the new world,” Hudson said. “NFTs have the potential to create a more democratic form of philanthropy… It is not about us reinforcing the capital of the institution. It’s about generating new forms of capital that can be of public benefit.”

Hito Steyerl speaking with Martti Kalliala from Amnesia Scanner and Joseph Vogel about crypto and art at Studio Bonn, hosted by Kolja Reichert.

Hito Steyerl speaking with Martti Kalliala from Amnesia Scanner and Joseph Vogel about crypto, art, and NFTs at Studio Bonn, hosted by Kolja Reichert.

Bailey, an expert on NFTs who has helping the Whitworth with its sale, is hopeful this strategy of seeking new patrons could help diversify the museum’s base of support. “Decentralized finance could change the way museums raise money and reduce dependency on a small number of high-net-worth patrons whose values do not always align with the communities museums are designed to serve,” he said.

This new kind of fundraising comes with its own challenges. Zachary Kaplan from the web art organization Rhizome recently received the largest gift in its history via an NFT sale. He told Midnight Publishing Group News that there are still some “caveats” to be smoothed out between art NFTs and institutions.

“There are still barriers for nonprofits,” he said. “For example, the exchanges are not optimized towards new or small institutional users.” He added that “the value of NFTs is driven by engagement from their artist and collector community, which does not overlap 1:1 with traditional museum supporters.” Successful projects, he said, will need partnerships between institutions and creators where creators are “in the lead, engaging their community for the cause they support.”

Rafaël Rozendaal, Endless Nameless (2021). Courtesy of the artist and Rhizome.

Rafaël Rozendaal, Endless Nameless (2021). Courtesy of the artist and Rhizome.

Legal Questions

The reason that museums have been comparatively slower on the uptake than other segments of the art world likely has something to do with the red tape around what they can and cannot do with works in the public domain.

For the Hermitage, which is selling NFTs of works like Leonardo da Vinci’s Madonna Litta (1490), Vincent van Gogh’s Lilac Bush (1889), and Claude Monet’s Corner of the Garden at Montgeron (c. 1876), the experiment is simply about exploring the new format in a nation where much of the crypo trade is outlawed. The Hermitage does not even intend to earn money, according to its general director Michael Piotrovsky, who is spearheading a sale together with Binance, a crypto trading platform that has been riddled with legal issues.

The Russian museum is splitting famous works in its collection into not one but two NFTs—one of the digital tokens will forever reside in its collection and the other will go to the eventual buyers. “Our financial issues are measured in billions,” Piotrovsky told Forbes Russia. “It’s not serious to resolve financial issues with the aid of tokens… For the moment, we want to see what sort of reception this form gets.”

The Hermitage’s approach is informed by Russia’s strict laws governing cryptocurrency trading, which went into effect in January. The museum has found a way to comply—though it has offered little information on exactly how the sale will work in this regard. Some suggest it is exploiting a loophole that NFTs are not explicitly mentioned in the new laws.

The Uffizi was one of the quickest to enter the new space, perhaps unsurprisingly. Under its upstart director Eike Schmidt, the home of Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus has also been quick to jump on TikTok and even launched playful cooking shows during lockdown. Enthusiastically entering the NFT arena, it sold Doni Tondo for €140,000 ($170,000), taking a 50/50 split of the profits with their technology partner Cinello.

At the time of the drop, the museum announced they would also put NFTs of other classics in the collection up for sale: Birth of Venus, Raphael’s Madonna del Granduca, and Caravaggio’s Bacchus were all on the list to be turned into tokens.

“There is a component of spreading knowledge of these works of art,” Schmidt told Midnight Publishing Group News. “But just as in the past you could not run a museum through the sale of posters and postcards, we won’t be able to run a museum of the future through digital twins.”

The Uffizi museum in Florence, Italy. Photo by Giovanni Mereghetti/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images.

The Uffizi museum in Florence, Italy. Photo by Giovanni Mereghetti/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images.

The upcoming sales are being put on hold, according to Schmidt while the Italian culture ministry looks into legislation on digital sales and, in particular, NFT reproductions of works owned by national museums. “Hopefully [we do not have to wait] for too long, because we do not want to miss the next phase of our sale,” he said. (The culture ministry did not answer repeated requests for more information about their possible legislation.)

While he looks forward to continuing with its NFT sales (pending the government go-ahead), he is also sure that the real value of NFTs for museums lies elsewhere. “The blockchain technology is far more interesting for new creations of works of art and for other sectors of the museum, such as ticket sales and smart contracts. We are looking into that actively.”

Different Possibilities

In a recent discussion at Studio Bonn, artist Hito Steyerl laid out her skepticism about blockchain, crypto, and NFTs, as well as the cultural sphere’s optimism about them. “The centralization of power is happening within the crypto-sphere,” warned the artist.

In fact, she announced that she has been “squatting” on Ethereum addresses of cultural institutions like the Humboldt Forum, Berlin, and the Bundeskunsthalle, a major cultural institution in Bonn. “The entire art world is mine,” she quipped.

Steyerl’s point, though symbolic, raises important questions about the ethics around privatizing objects, public goods, or just space in general on the blockchain. Should institutions really be selling off original digital versions of their works into private hands?

Views of the State Hermitage Museum and Winter Palace St Petersburg, Russia. Photo: by Julian Finney/Getty Images.

Views of the State Hermitage Museum and Winter Palace St Petersburg, Russia. Photo: by Julian Finney/Getty Images.

Bailey, who advised the Whitworth and has helped the museum incorporate the NFT sale into their programming, urges other museums to harness this moment for engagement and education. But he also advises caution—do not sign your art away too quickly.

“Make sure you understand what NFTs are and the role they will play in the future before you sign away your rights to the NFTs in your collection,” he said. “I use the example of Walt Disney, who in the 1930s refused to sign his rights to television away even though most people had no idea what it was at the time. By 1966, it was estimated that an astronomical 100 million people were tuning in to watch Disney television shows.”

Navigating the stickier issues of the NFT boom while taking advantage of its opportunities will be a balancing act. One must commend the various institutions who are sticking their necks out, and willing to make the first mistakes that others can learn from. In fact, the Whitworth is currently planning to chronicle all the highs and lows of its NFT sales in an upcoming exhibition in 2023 on the subject of economics and art exhibitions.

“The great unknown is the perpetual nature of the blockchain,” Hudson said. “What does it mean to have a work functioning in perpetuity? One of our jobs is to disseminate images… This is a way of doing that. We are taking an image from 1827 and making it operate in the world anew.”

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