Adapted from a fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen. Inspired by http://www.stuff.co.nz/entertainment/arts/2844191/Waikato-art-award-winner-just-rubbish-artists/
Once upon a time, there lived a Museum Director, whose only worry in life was to display works of art. Word of the Director's refined habits spread over her kingdom and beyond. To her glee, it was decided to display the winning entry from the Waikato National Contemporary Art Award at her museum.
An Artist, who heard of the awards, decided to take advantage of it. However, he was not able to make the effort to travel to the Museum himself, so he audaciously submitted written instructions to the obedient museum staff. "I am a very good Artist, and after many years of research I have created an extraordinary installation art piece. As a matter of fact its redeeming features are invisible to anyone who is too stupid and incompetent to appreciate its quality." The Artist asked for all the rubbish at the gallery to be tipped onto a table.
On the day of the judging, the Lead Judge was shown the work. "Admire the statement, feel the texture!" instructed the written submission from the absent artist. The Judge bent over the pile of torn cardboard boxes and used sellotape, and tried to see the sculpture that was not there. She felt cold sweat on her forehead. "I can't see anything," she thought. "If I see nothing, that means I'm stupid! Or, worse, incompetent!"
"What a marvellous work of art," she said then.
Finally, the winner was announced. "Here it is,” said the Lead Judge. “Look at the statement it makes, and feel its unique contrasting texture." Of course, the Museum Director did not see any statement and could not feel any unique textures between her fingers. She panicked and felt like fainting. However, when she realised that no one could know that she did not see the "statement", she felt better. Nobody could find out she was stupid and incompetent.
The Museum Director had promised to display the winning entry in the museum. She was embarrassed but since none of the bystanders said anything, she felt relieved. "Yes, this is a profound statement, and it looks very good in the museum," the Director said, trying to look comfortable. "The judges have done a fine job. The people should know about these awards, and this extraordinary work of art." The Director was doubtful showing this to the people, but then she abandoned her fears. After all, everyone would understand it except the ignorant and the incompetent. "I will grant the people this privilege."
She summoned her Communications Manager and the ceremonial press release was drafted. A group of art dignitaries walked at the front of the museum and anxiously scrutinised the faces of the people in the street. All the people had gathered in the main square, pushing and shoving to get a better look. Applause welcomed the unveiling. Everyone wanted to know how stupid or incompetent his or her neighbour was but, as the Director passed, a strange murmur rose from the crowd.
Everyone said, loud enough for the others to hear: "Look at the winning entry. It's profound!" "What a marvellous statement!" "And the unique contrasting texture!" They all tried to conceal their disappointment at not being able to understand the statement, and since nobody was willing to admit his own stupidity and incompetence, they all behaved as the Artist had hoped.
A few taxpayers, however, who had no important jobs and could only see things as their eyes showed them, went up to the display. "This is just rubbish from a rubbish bin," they said, as they wondered who had funded these awards.
"Fools!" the Judge, Museum Director, absent Artist, and dignitaries reprimanded. "Don't talk nonsense!" They silenced the criticism before anyone asked who had funded these Awards.
The Director realised that the people were right but could not admit to that. So she disingenuously stated that it had met the objective of "getting people to talk about it". She thought it better to continue with the press releases under the illusion that anyone who could not see the statement was either stupid or incompetent.
And she stoically stood by the display, while behind her a museum cleaner frowned at the rubbish on the floor, muttered something about young people these days, and fetched his broom.