HOWARD NO (1955–2006)

Little is known about the self-identified ‘outsider’ artist Howard No, beyond sporadic anecdotes that escape the rare and controlled conditions under which his works change ownership. His name is regarded as an alias following tacit indications by his estate, which repeatedly declines comment on speculation connecting him with the La Bédoyère family associated with the La Caze collection at The Louvre. While his idiom suggests a well developed education in the arts, No operated outside the formal establishment, producing work exclusively for corporate collections in reaction to ‘the rank aesthetics of cronyism and self-serving cultural manipulation, wrapped elegantly in the guise of good taste and public illumination’ (Howard No, HCP collections log, 18.04.89), purportedly referring to the art establishment of the time and indicative of deep-rooted personal connections with the subject. While this position is thought to have directly inspired the radical anti-public stance of first-wave Vienna Conceptualism, there are no grounds to suggest the artist harbored misanthropic sentiments, supported by the declaration that his exclusive corporate-commission strategy merely ‘[felt] less fraudulent’ (ibid). After his untimely death, the mystique around No’s work persists, due partly to the provocative spirit of its conception, partly to the arresting aesthetics of its construction and partly to the idiosyncratic contractual restrictions he imposed on the possibility of its exhibition. The 1989 series Fuck Computational Theory Of Mind! appears in open storage at 3084 courtesy of Hotel Ceteris Paribus, prior to donation of the work to Vancouver-based discursive-tourism facility, Le Bateau L’Avenir.

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