Hydra Dispatch: Sebastian Puig reports on Matthew Barney’s latest.

I’ll have the shark. Well done. (Photos by Sebastian Puig and U.B. Morgan.)

Take one dead shark. Add a submerged coffin. Throw in a Jeff Koons-designed yacht. What do you have? A Matthew Barney extravaganza on the Greek Isle of Hydra, a renowned, car-free artsy fartsy hideout where everyone who is anyone goes everywhere by foot or burro. Hosted by collector/industrialist/Koons yacht owner Dakis Joannou, the performance/party/shark roast combined various events into one hyperreal Mediterranean spectacle.

The first installation was in a former slaughterhouse on Hydra’s Mandraki Bay, where Barney and painter-of-the-minute Elizabeth Peyton collaborated on a little event called Blood of Two, sponsored by the Athens-based Deste Foundation Center for Contemporary Art. Sadly, it did not involve fileting Björk. But it did involve getting up at dawn to watch a bunch of local workers dredge up a glass coffin from the Aegean that contained a Peyton-painted portrait of Barney. (So meta!) After the ceremonial lifting, said coffin/vitrine — very Jules Verne — was carried along a rocky path to the slaughterhouse, where the artsy jet set could admire its contents. Naturally, the Barney/Peyton team filmed the whole parade, which mimics a local Easter event in which an icon is carried into the sea and out again. (So culturally relevant!)

Accompanying the procession? One shark, dead, to be sacrificed to the ravenous culture vultures at an evening reception. This consisted of about 500 attendees sitting at the longest table we’ve ever seen (seriously, you couldn’t see the ends from the middle) all of whom diligently gnawed on the charred member of the phylum Chordata in the name of art. Naturally, it tasted like chicken. OK, not really. We didn’t eat the shark. There wasn’t enough to go around. But I’m sure it was delicious. Especially with a little tsatsiki on the side.

To read more on Matthew Barney’s shark party, check out The Moment, ArtForum and Art Observed.

Click on images to supersize.

Scenic Hydra.

The area hadn’t seen this much excitement since the Peloponnesian War. Everyone was up at dawn to watch the coffin dredging!

The coffin arises from the deep.

Cue the media scrum.

The rocky walk from Hydra’s slaughterhouse to the annex-by-the-sea.

How cool would it have been if it had contained Damien Hirst? The mind reels.

As the sun set, it was time to retire from the slaughterhouse and get ready to party.

Here, Mr. Barney himself, casually clad in denim shirt, chit chats with one of the VVIP guests.

The shark: “I think we overcooked it. Get the A1.”

Getting ready to nosh, at the world’s longest table.

And nosh we did…into the wee hours.

All the while, Daki Jouannou’s yacht bobbed serenely in the harbor. Au Revoir, Mr. Jouannou! We look forward to nibbling on some other form of marine life next year!


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  2. E. Fensler

    ridiculous. so was the “performance” a way for barney to metaphorically express that his career is over? this is such crap its unbelievable that the degree to which the art world is completely out of touch with reality. these people should be eaten by the masses. the new york art world is dead and rotting. can someone explain how this is art at all? wow…so cutting edge. barney and peyton are talentless idiots and the people buying their crap are the wealthy, insecure, society morons with no real life experience. death to this kind of “art” / commerce. pathetic.

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