Art out in the Wild

Imagine a lion in its natural state and natural habitat: if you wanted to approach it you’d probably have to be in some protective cage to avoid death or injury. Now imagine a lion in a zoo and you know that you can get very close to him without the slightest fear because it’s now he who is enclosed in the cage. The price for such an easy encounter with a lion is paid by the lion himself. The price he pays for the zoo visitors’ pleasure is life-long imprisonment.

For animals of the first generation, brought in from the wild to one of this world’s zoos, the loss of their liberty must surely have been a dreadful thing to bear. Yet even animals of the second and third generations who were born in zoos still carry within them this gene of liberty. 

The gene of liberty is not exclusive to wild animals. OUBEYs art too, in a certain manner, also bears its imprint.  

Not a circus

OUBEYs pictures are expressions of his indomitable free spirit. Unimpressed and unmoved by the rules of the art market, he only ever did what seemed important to him and right so that in a figurative sense you can say that this free spirit lives on in his paintings. And when I was wondering what would be the best way bring OUBEYs paintings to public attention after his early death, one thing became evident very quickly – that they had no place in the circus of the art world. Their proper place was much more “out in the wild” where they could enjoy the kind of freedom that was their birth right and display themselves in public free of and unrestrained by all the common modes of perception. This is why I brought the paintings to settings where art is not usually found – like an international management conference. 

Museum or cloakroom 

The annual conference of the Peter Drucker Society in Vienna examines social and economic issues of management. Art is not usually high on its agenda. Yet when the president of the Society heard of my ENCOUNTER Tour, he suggested that OUBEYs art should be shown at the next conference focussed on “Managing Complexity” – in a context lightyears away from any museum, and stripped of any kind of explanation or even explicit reference to the paintings.  In other words, a context where they could be discovered and explored in a kind of natural “out in the wild” habitat. The topic chosen for the conference was a happy chance because “complexity” is of central importance to OUBEYs art. I gladly accepted his offer. And so in November 2013 two of his paintings were suspended in the space between two giant classical pillars while four other paintings found their place in a narrow corridor on the aluminium doors of cloakroom lockers. What do you think happened? 

Managers and art  = a strong force of attraction

At first all the people at the conference were largely involved in discussing the concerns that had led them to the conference in the first place. However, the conference covered two and a half days and, gradually, without any prompting, more and more people appeared in the corridor where the pictures were hung to look at them, put on the headphones and watched the Encounter Videos. Even though no effort was made to attract visitors, the level of interest steadily rose – as did the readiness to encounter a previously unknown painting in front of running cameras. Such Open Encounters are an integral part of each stopover of the Global Encounter Tour and are especially fascinating. By the end of the conference in Vienna there was such a queue of people waiting to take part in an Open Encounter that we had to organise an extra shift. Who knows what would have happened on a third day …

Free and without pre-conceptions or favour

This extraordinary opening was also an opportunity for me to see what a strong appeal OUBEYs art held for these people. This really impressed me and also reassured me that my decision to show his art “out in the wild” had been the correct one. Because even if museums do play a major role in ensuring the conservation and accessibility of art and display art in optimal settings, it’s still a marvellous opportunity to experience art finally freed of this context in the setting of a cloakroom corridor where you can view it close-up and directly and form your own personal opinion.