Who Needs Art? There’s Plumbing

September 11, 2014 2:20 PM

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It tickles Alexander Melamid, a 69-year-old conceptual artist and provocateur, that his Chelsea landlord has printed his name on the building’s tenant listing board as “Melamid’s Healing Shrine.” But so much amuses Mr. Melamid, a Russian-born painter with a ready cackle and a fondness for bear hugs, whose past provocations have included deep-frying photographs of artists like Andy Warhol, Picasso and Marcel Duchamp. It has long been Mr. Melamid’s mission to poke fun at the art world. His Art Healing Ministry, an ongoing project, proposes that certain extractions and gadgets involving the emanations of Great Works — Raphael, say, or Botticelli — could be cures for a grab-bag of ailments: bulimia, acne, anxiety.

This month, he’s filled the ministry, a modest room dominated by an enormous self-portrait with a tiny altar at its foot — “I am a false god,” Mr. Melamid cautioned, “but if you want to pray....” (elaborate shrugging) — with a new obsession: plumbing fixtures. His meticulous paintings of U-bend pipe...

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