It Starts with the Firing
Format: 21,5x 34 cm
Edition of 1000 copies
A public dispute about the value of contemporary art and its reception has inspired the creation of It Starts with the Firing by Elisabetta Benassi. This artist’s book reactivates a controversy which took place in 1970s London and affected the Tate Galleries’ collecting strategies—in particular, the acquisition of Equivalent VIII, a work by minimalist artist Carl Andre made in firebrick.
On 15 February 1976, the Sunday Times Business News featured an article about the Tate’s purchases of the previous years illustrated with a photograph of Equivalent VIII by Andre. Originally part of the series Equivalents, the work was composed of one hundred and twenty bricks placed on two overlapping rows in order to form a rectangular shape. London’s Tate Gallery had purchased the artwork for several thousand pounds in 1972, and then featured it in two special displays of recent acquisitions before it attracted any adverse publicity. In 1976, after the issue of the article on the Sunday Times, intense press scrutiny poured ridicule on the museum’s acquisition choice—“Brick-a-brac Art”—with articles and cartoons.
Elisabetta Benassi has referred back to the traces of this press material, put together by Andre himself and donated to the Tate Archives, to open up and activate the controversy by extrapolating headlines from the original newspaper cuttings. The most compelling titles have been selected by the artist, then recreated imitating their authentic typeface, and collected in a single book. All the headlines assembled in It Starts With the Firing have also turned into billboards, positioned around the town of Reggio Emilia on the occasion of her namesake exhibition at Collezione Maramotti.