Artist and arsonist Scott Campbell explains why he ignited his work outside of Vice mag’s gallery in Mexico. Not surprisingly, two accelerants that should never be mixed were responsible: bad attitudes and emails.
Here’s the gist of what happened. When the show sold out, the “main guy” saw dollar signs and got all “pushy.” Campbell emailed him to cool it, so the gallerist responded with “really childish name-calling.”
Conveniently, there was a gas station around the corner.
I decided I was done. If he’s going to wave this dollar amount in front of my face, then fine: No one makes any money… It’s amazing how people will just snap to attention. I’m sitting there in front of this burning pile of money, literally and figuratively, and he’s like, “Let’s talk! Let’s talk! Let’s talk!” I was like, “Dude, talk fast, whatever you’ve got to say, you better say it real quick.”
Out came the apologies and a fire extinguisher, the flames were put out and the work was put back, but partially torched. And so it hangs in the gallery, burnt. Campbell will be replacing the pieces for the collectors that cashed out, but he has made his point:
It wasn’t some dramatic tantrum of a bratty art star. I sat there for a day and a half trying to figure out that situation. I really felt trapped and held hostage, so I thought, “I’ll destroy it. I’ll just come home and make more.” I’d rather just pull out completely than have myself be misrepresented.
At the time of the show, Campbell was down in Mexico City for some Santa Marta prison tattoo culture, documenting and participating with their “Frankenstein tattoo machines out of electric razors and guitar strings and toothbrushes.” Ooh.