The National Art School presents Caught Stealing: The Art of Misappropriation. The exhibition turns the spotlight on a posse of Australian contemporary artists who engage in theft as a creative strategy, from Fiona Hall, Louise Paramor, Destiny Deacon, Hany Armanious, Soda_Jerk and The Avalanches to Joan Ross.
From the Dadaists redeploying everyday objects as art to the music sampling at the core of rap and hip hop, the act of plundering with artistic licence has a long history.
“Stealing things is a glorious occupation, particularly in the art world.” – Malcolm McLaren.
Caught Stealing looks at a distinctly Australian approach to creative larceny, celebrating artists whose work deals in reappropriation, re-evaluation and revelation.
“There are examples of copying and formal experimentation with found materials in art that go back thousands of years, but this exhibition celebrates the artists who deliberately get
caught in the act,” says exhibition curator and NAS lecturer Jaime Tsai. “Their strategy of theft is a recognised and acknowledged aspect of their work.”
Caught Stealing (the title itself stolen from the 1990 Jane’s Addiction song) also nods to the history of NAS, which occupies the site of the old Darlinghurst Gaol. From 1841 to 1914, the prison enforced harsh discipline and capital punishment. From 1922, the art school has nurtured creativity and social engagement.
The building where the exhibition hangs was first used to incarcerate male prisoners, including several notorious bushrangers, who were themselves hung.
“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination … Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent.” – Jim Jarmusch.