Ursus Wehrli is a Swiss comedian and the author of “Tidying Up Art”, an attempt to bring (Swiss?) rationality to modern art.
He begins with a quilt-like work by Paul Klee. “It’s a confusion of color. The artists doesn’t really seem to know where to put the color… Mr. Klee was probably in a hurry.” He turns it into a bar graph, organized in order of hue. “That’s just tidying up for beginners.”
Looking at a painting by Joan Miro, he notes, “The artists has drawn a few lines and shapes and dropped them any old place… It’s the sort of thing you produce when doodling on the phone…” Cleaning it up into a stack of swirls, dots and lines, he explains, “With this method, Mr. Miro could have saved canvas for another picture.”
He’s patented his working method – we hear the beginning of the patent application… in German… which he explains doesn’t make much more sense in English.
Working with a Keith Haring, he can’t figure out which way to place it. “This picture doesn’t even have a proper title. It’s called ‘Untitled’, and that’s appropriate”. Breaking it up into different elements and stacking them, we get “Keith Haring’s spare parts”. This sort of analysis allows Haring to determine how much paint he’ll need in the future.
We tidy Jasper Johns and Magritte, organizing colored lines and men in black suits into orderly lines by height.
Taking Van Gogh’s “Bedroom at Arles”, he tidies it by putting all the furniture on or under the bed, since it hadn’t been tidied since 1888. “Now, at least, we can do some vacuuming.”
With a Jackson Pollack, what else is there to do, but put the paint back into the cans?