Stumbling Onto Piss Flowers

On a recent trip to Jupiter Artland sculpture garden I got a bit peckish and decided to go into the café for a sandwich, which was overpriced but very fancy. To my surprise, next to my outdoor table, I found Helen Chadwick’s ‘Piss Flowers’, a seminal piece of feminist art from the 1990s. Made by Chadwick and her husband David Notarius by pissing into snow and then making casts of the indentations – the work was peacefully sitting in the enclosed cafe garden, without any sort of sign. Apparently they are part of the private collection of the Artland’s owners, Robert and Nicky Wilson, the family behind Rescue Remedy homeopathic tinctures.

Originally private collectors they opened up their estate to the public in May 2010, saying in an interview at the time that they owned a ‘Charity (Maquette)’ by Damian Hurst, which Sotheby’s states sold for £140,000 at a charity auction in 2004. While we know that Chadwick funnelled £ 12,000 of her own money into making ‘Piss Flowers’ it’s harder to track down exactly how much they are currently worth or how many copies of them are out there. Twelve of the bronze sculptures sit in the Jupitar Artland garden, but a spokesperson assures me that they were an edition of five – implying that there are at least 60 individual Piss Flowers in the world. Christie’s London sold three for £9,375 in 2013, after which the buyer sold each one separately for an unknown amount.

A spokesperson for the sculpture garden explained the lack of signage, saying, “We have approached signage in an unusual way at Jupiter Artland. For the private collection we like to let people encounter them at their own pace and then the map that we give out has information about the artists and the work.” When I pointed out Chadwick’s work was also not on the map, the spokesperson apologised for the oversight, explaining that the maps were a few years old and had some mistakes and omissions. They reassured me that ‘Piss Flowers’ is a valued part of the permanent collection, saying, “Our dream is to do a solo show of Helen Chadwick’s work at some point.”

Since publishing a version of this article in AW42 we have heard back from Richard Saltoun Gallery, which represents Chadwick’s work on the general art market. They also represent other feminist artists such as the late photographer Jo Spence, Renate Bertlmann – who represented Austria at last year’s Venice Biennale – and performance artist Ulay, whose work with his former partner Marina Abramović pushed the medium into mainstream success.

A spokesperson for Richard Saltoun Gallery said: “Unfortunately, the price of any works sold are generally confidential, so we are unable to comment on the works at Jupiter Artland, but generally, we are fine if you would like to mention a price range for Helen’s work, which is quite wide and affordable at the lower end: from £350 to £250,000! Although ‘Piss Flowers’ might be outside your readers’ price point, they can order a print for £350, which is a far more affordable way of having a work by Helen in their burgeoning collection.”

So there you go, for the price of £50 more than my rent you can have a genuine print by Helen Chadwick. It just goes to show what you can discover when you buy an overpriced sandwich.

Words: Ana Hine

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