This post was prompted by an amusing article in Taki's magazine which encapsulated my feelings exactly. Living in Basel, I unfortunately get exposed to a lot of such charlatanry, especially as the city hosts one of the biggest contemporary art fairs (ArtBasel) yearly with all its attendant side-shows and temporary installations. I also went ages ago with my wife (our son wasn't born yet) to an installation (how I hate the word!) at the Fondation Beyeler on the outskirts of Basel where two artistic mountebanks, the husband-wife pair of Christo and Jean-Claude, had the brilliant idea of wrapping the trees in the surrounding parkland in textile. Deep.
My real rancour is reserved for someone who is revered in the local artistic fraternity, the late Swiss artist/sculptor Jean Tinguely. In fact he is held in such high regard that there is even an entire museum dedicated to his "works" and that of his wife, the equally untalented Niki de Saint Phalle (is a common theme emerging for artistic frauds?). He spent a few years here before buggering off to Paris (Mecca and epicentre of arty-fartiness) and has been adopted as an honoured son.
I lived across the street for three years and never once sullied my footsteps in crossing its threshold ;-)
Google him, but only if you are very bored. Most of the sculptures are kinetic (arrrrgh, hateful word) installations engaged in mindless, repetitive movement. The sculptures are made out of junk with the occasional garishly painted component and appear to be bolted and welded on with a degree of skill that would embarrass an australopithecus.
There is another famous public sculture by him, the Tinguely Fountain in the town centre. It's composed of a shallow pool in which are......wait for it......a bunch of badly welded metallic bits engaged in mindless, repetitive motion! Such endlessly creative fertility is rare, which explains why its passed him by ;-)
My advice when in Basel: the Fondation Beyeler, the KunstMuseum for the Holbeins, and if you have some time left over, a nice beer at the Fischerstube by the Rhein.