Karen Kilimnik is well known in the art world for being a guilty pleasure of sorts or something of a ‘people pleaser’. Some, however, have been trying to make her ‘calculated amateurism’ pass for conceptual genius and that is where the problem starts.


At the 303 Gallery in NYC Kilimnik is showing her latest body of work composed of 29 works (17 of them ‘collage on paper). Amongst them there is ‘the perfumed countryside with perfumed sheep’ (2015) where the Penhaligon’s Bluebell bottle takes pride of place in an otherwise classical landscape just because is Kate Moss’s favourite fragrance. Other collages show baroque bed canopies with cats and her typical celebrity portraits and landscapes are also included. The tone is, of course, silly and, as we know, this is not only deliberate but also characteristic of her, so called, faux naïf style.


But when this ‘calculated amateurism’ is presented as ‘sprezzatura’, which, since the XV century menas ‘non challantly making things difficult look like easy’, there is a degree of dishonesty in that that same calculatedness cannot be used for simulating things that are ‘easy’ to do. That is not sprezzatura but opportunistic laziness and I think this is the problem with Kilimnik which, if you ask me, as an artist is shit. J A T