Human nature dictates that given a clean surface and enough people allowed to draw on it, inevitably a crude drawing of a dick will emerge. It’s true of bar bathrooms, faces at frat parties, and now, paintings by master artists.
In January, New York-based artist Nikolas Bentel set out to defile a piece of art by pop artist Robert Rauschenberg. It’s a project done in partnership with the New Museum and its art and design incubator, NEW INC.
Following in the spirit of Rauschenberg’s own experimentation with erasing a work by expressionist artist Willem de Koonig, Bentel bought and erased one of Rauschenberg drawings, replacing it with advertisements.
In roughly a month, he successfully sold off space on the entire 12 x 9 inch canvas for $92.59 an inch. The end result of this is a slew of crude images covering the canvas, including the Confused Nick Young meme, Drake’s If You're Reading This It's Too Late mixtape cover, the McDonald’s logo, and a neon green dick drawing.
I asked Bentel if these companies and celebrities actually bought ad space, or if they’re just being used by buyers as another layer in the capitalist stunt. “To be perfectly honest, I have no idea what their affiliation is to the brands,” he told me in an email. “They could be people in the McDonald's corporation and Drake himself, or they could be people just using their imagery, which I think is funnier.”
It took Bentel a year of calling art dealers to find one who would sell him a Rauschenberg to destroy, Bentel told me. Now, it’s set to go up for auction, starting a $20,000—doubling its original value. The proceeds will go toward a scholarship fund for artists unable to pay for the program to participate in the incubator.