The Daily Pic

10.04.13

Are Butter Labels Art? And Copies of Them?

The Daily Pic: Drawings by James Castle are lovely things, but should credit go to him or his discoverers?
Undated drawings by the outsider artist James Castle
(Courtesy Peter Freeman, Inc. in cooperation with The James Castle Collection and Archive)

35 undated, hand-drawn images, or copies, of butter labels, by James Castle, the deaf and dumb outsider artist who died in 1977, and has lately been seen all over the art world. Nicely gridded up, and presented on the clean white walls of Peter Freeman gallery in New York, Castle's labels looked fantastic. My eyes cannot resist such modernist pleasure. But as I argue in my piece in the current Frieze edition of The Art Newspaper, I'm not sure how much credit should go to Castle, and how much to the modernist giants who made Castle's images available to us, as art. I'm particularly troubled that no one seems to be even asking the question. When an objet gets trouvé, there's a good chance it's the finder not the object that ought to matter to us – and all outsider art, by definition, has to be found before it can become insider stuff.

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