Art 101

The Secret Alter Egos of the Art World

The Secret Alter Egos of the Art World
Who is Rrose Sélavy?

The art world is a realm of productive fictions, flights of fantasy, and all-around legerdemain, where value springs from belief and profound truths are often found via circuitous paths. Artists, of course, are the preeminent illusionists in this mix, evolving and casting aside styles with ease—and sometimes even identities, adopting pseudonyms to slip undetected (or under creative pretenses) into environments ripe for intervention. Sometimes, dealers, curators, and writers join in on the fun. Below is a key to a few of the more notable alter egos from the current and art history alike, with identifications listed where appropriate.  

Abo Rasul (author who wrote the Danish novels The Cocka Hola Company, Macht und Rebel, Unfun ) — Matias Faldbakken

assume vivid astro focusEli Sudbrack and Christophe Hamaide

Baby Ikki (an overgrown id-monster of a sunglasses-wearing baby) — The underground video-art hero Michael Smith

Banksy — Allegedly, Bristol-based Robin Gunningham

Bernadette CorporationBernadette Van-Huy, Antek Walczak, and Reena Spaulings co-conspirator John Kelsey

Brassaï (early 20th-century Hungarian photographer) — Gyula Halász

The Bruce High Quality Foundation — A New York art collective, curatorial organization, and pedagogical unit that still prefers to remain anonymous 

Charles Marville (19th-century French architecture and landscape photographer) — Charles François Bossu

Chto delat (Russian art collective whose name translates into "What is to be done?") — Nikolay Oleynikov, Tsaplya Olga Egorova, Dmitry Vilensky, and others

Claire Fontaine (fictional conceptual artist) — A Paris-based collective including Fulvia Carnevale and James Thornhill

CPLYWilliam N. Copley

Diane Pruis (pseudonymous Los Angeles gallerist) — Untitled gallery's Joel Mesler

Donelle Woolford (black female artist) — Actors hired to impersonate said fictional artist by white artist Joe Scanlan

Dr. Lakra (Mexican artist inspired by tattoo culture) — Jeronimo Lopez Ramirez

Dr. Videovich (a "specialist in curing television addiction") — The Argentine-American conceptual artist Jaime Davidovich

DzineCarlos Rolon

George Hartigan — The male pseudonym that the Abstract Expressionist painter Grace Hartigan adopted early in her career

Frog King Kwok (Hong Kong performance artist who uses Chinese food as a frequent medium)— Conceptualist Kwok Mang Ho

The Guerrilla Girls
— A still-anonymous group of feminist artists who made critical agit-prop work exposing the gender biases in the art world

Hennessy Youngman (hip-hop-styled YouTube advice dispenser), Franklin Vivray (increasingly unhinged Bob Ross-like TV painting instructor) — Jayson Musson

Henry Codax (mysterious monochrome artist) — Jacob Kassay and Olivier Mosset

JR — Not the shot villain of "Dallas" but the still-incognito street artist of global post-TED fame

John Dogg (artist), Fulton Ryder (Upper East Side gallerist) — Richard Prince

KAWSBrian Donnelly

The King of Kowloon (calligraphic Hong Kong graffiti artist) — Tsang Tsou-choi

Klaus von Nichtssagend (fictitious Lower East Side dealer) — Ingrid Bromberg Kennedy, Rob Hult, and Sam Wilson

Leo Gabin — Ghent-based collective composed of Gaëtan Begerem, Robin De Vooght, and Lieven Deconinck

Lucie Fontaine (art and curatorial collective) — The writer/curator Nicola Trezzi and artist Alice Tomaselli

MadeIn CorporationXu Zhen

Man Ray — Emmanuel Radnitzky

Marvin Gaye Chetwynd (Turner Prize-nominated artist formerly known as Spartacus Chetwynd) — Alalia Chetwynd

Maurizio CattelanMassimiliano Gioni, at least in many interviews the New Museum curator did in the famed Italian artist's stead in the '90s

Mr. Brainwash (Banksy-idolizing street artist) — Thierry Guetta

MURK FLUID, Mike Lood— The artist Mark Flood

R. Mutt, Rrose SélavyMarcel Duchamp

Rammellzee — Legendary New York street artist and multimedia visionary, whose real name "is not to be told… that is forbidden,” according to his widow

Reena Spaulings (Lower East Side gallery) — Artist Emily Sundblad and writer John Kelsey

Regina Rex (fictional Brooklyn gallerist) — The artists Eli Ping (who now has opened Eli Ping Gallery on the Lower East Side), Theresa Ganz, Yevgenia Baras, Aylssa Gorelick, Angelina Gualdoni, Max Warsh, and Lauren Portada

RetnaMarquis Lewis

Rod Bianco (fictional Oslo galleris) — Bjarne Melgaard

RodForce (performance artist who explored the eroticized associations of black culture) — Sherman Flemming

Rudy Bust — Canadian artist Jon Pylypchuk

Sacer, Sace (different spellings of a 1990s New York graffiti tag) — Dash Snow

SAMO (1980s New York Graffiti Tag) — Jean-Michel Basquiat

Shoji Yamaguchi (Japanese ceramicist who fled Hiroshima and settled in the American South with a black civil-rights activist, then died in a car crash in 1991) — Theaster Gates

Vern Blosum — A fictional Pop painter of odd image-and-word combinations who was invented by a still-unnamed Abstract Expressionist artist in an attempt to satirize the Pop movement (and whose work is now sought-after in its own right)

Weegee — Arthur Fellig

What, How and for Whom (curators of 2009 Istanbul Biennial) — Ana Dević, Nataša Ilić, Sabina Sabolović, Dejan Kršić, and Ivet Curlin

TheYes Men
— A group of "culture-jamming" media interventionists led by Jacques Servin and Igor Vamos 


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