Haute Art: Interview with Artist Pepe Smit

Tell us about yourself, what is your background and who inspired you when you were young?

I come from The Hague, my father was a filmmaker and my mother a set dresser. I have always seen my mother make all kind of things. I think this has helped me to believe you can make almost anything yourself. I always make my own film and photo sets and I like to make things look good with very little money and a lot of tricks…

What is the impact of the Luncheon on the Grass made by Manet on you?

“Le Dejeuner sur l’herbe” by Edouard Manet made a real stir when it was first exhibited at the “Salon des Refusés” in Paris in 1863. The impertinence of the naked woman sitting between the two dressed men was of a totally different order than the aesthetic nudes known in the arts at that time. The woman stares provocatively at the viewer and in doing so she makes the viewer into a voyeur and accomplice.  In my video I reverse these roles: the man is naked and the women are having a picnic. Just like the work of Manet the video carries a provocative tone in which the viewer is challenged to form an opinion.Making the spectator an accomplice is something I that is very appealing to me and many times I have used this in my work.

Why have you decided to make your own one?

The use of naked woman in art is something that interests me. Manet in a way questioned this role. The most degraded naked woman are perhaps naked woman used as furniture. In the seventies the artist Allen Jones made a coffee table out of a female doll, but also the Milkbar in Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orangeis full of women who serve as furniture. The masculine furniture in the my work can be understood as a hitherto missing counterweight in art history. I thought it would be a way humorous revenge these women.

In yours, the man is naked and the girls are eating on his back like a dinning table. Is it just like a joke or did you want to convey a deeper message?

In the work we see two women and a naked man. The naked man is hardly a character, he is degraded to a “prop”: a side table that provides the women with all kinds of decadent and luxury items. In spite of their unbridled lust for extravagant luxury such as lots of champagne, chocolates, cakes and fruit, they cannot suppress boredom. This is pure decadence but also something that could have taken place anywhere, anytime: women who can afford to look beautiful in expensive clothes, who can eat and drink whatever they want, spending all day gossiping and laughing with a friend. They are trophy wives who serve as a status symbol or, later in life, like the woman in this video, have ones been trophy wives and are now obliged to forfill this role forever. A state of being which inevitably leads to enormous boredom.

What do you think of Feminist Art? do you feel any affiliation?

Growing up in the seventies I was raised between feminists. Being independent was a must. But nowadays I notice that a lot of women (especially the Nouveau Riche), to whom freedom and independence is totally normal, independence and freedom do not mean much anymore. They throw it all overboard to stay home and bake cookies with the kids in their expensive kitchen on their Gucci boots. And I myself like to do things like that to. Sometimes. I like my position to be on the sideline. I see what happens and I see the weirdness and the humor of it but I could be doing the seem thing myself. So I try not to be judgmental, I just want to reveal even to to fillet everyday things like gender roles, power relationships and stereotypesIn a humorous way and with sugar-sweet venom. I do feel affiliation with some feminist art. I like Dana Wyse for instance, Cindy Sherman and also the Guerrilla Girls girls. But in general I like art or I don’t, regardless if it was made by a man or a woman. Because my name is also a man’s name people people often think that my work was made by a man. It can be quite a surprise when they find out I’m a woman!

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Born and raised in Paris, Delphine decided to move to NY after graduating from the Sorbonne where she got a master degree in social sciences and history of art mention contemporary art. Once in New York she went to the Christies School and she got a certificate degree. She used to work as an intern during all her studies for an auction house, several galleries and art dealers in both Paris and New York. She’s now working on her first book which is dedicated to contemporary art in general