Roisin Byrne: The theft artist (interview) (2010)

Well if the artists are allowed to break the rules, so can the art journos, editors and PR people. Sorry.

R.J. Preece (ADP)
Art Design Publicity at ADC | 21 May 2010 | Updated 26 November 2016

Roisin Byrne: The theft artist

Sometimes the conversation around the published interview is more interesting than the publicity output itself. In fact, back in 2000, I interviewed an artist in my flat in Rotterdam for an art magazine and we were both later pleased to see the interview make the cover. However, after publication, we recalled a more interesting conversation in my kitchen before the interview—the standard fare here—talking about racism, xenophobia, corruption, incompetence, arrogance and/or disbelief at discoveries of certain “activities” and gossip from the Dutch art world. The “leading art scene” on the planet, if on the odd chance you also weren’t aware of this…

Roisin Byrne Simon Starling
Text supplied by Roisin Byrne: "You don’t bring me flowers anymore: On the 16th of June 2009 motivated by a desire for the artist, his work and his contacts correspondense was initiated with the 4 main dealers for Simon Starling. Asking for current information on a work from 2000 a week later Starling helped locate the original. Stolen and smuggled back to the UK it was immediately put to work, 2009. Rhodedendron ponticum plant stolen from Parque Los Alcomocales Spain and smuggled into the UK after being rescued and re-introduced into cultivation by Simon Starling in 2000, flight documents, book pages, email correspondence." Roisin Byrne supplied the four photos. has not seen the artworks and personally we would be very pleased to learn that they don’t exist beyond publicity photos and email documentation.

So when I learned of the “theft artist” Roisin Byrne, recent Goldsmiths grad and hit on a BBC program, followed up dutifully with a feature by Jonathan Jones in the Guardian, I had to try to interview her. Her in-your-face rule-breaking in the art world inspired my own: I’d chat with her beforehand and see how she’d reply— and delay the official publicity “interview” as long as possible.

I think it turned out rather well. In fact, now she is an Art Design Publicity editorial advisor. Yes, I’ll be guarding my bank details. Everything!

The following is the email conversation between R.J. Preece and Roisin Byrne from 14 April – 21 May 2010.

R.J. Preece: Dear Roisin,

Simon (Bedwell) passed on your email. John A. Walker told me about the profile of you on the BBC.

Very keen to learn a bit more and consider offering a Q&A. After 8 months, we’re ranked in the top 20 for intl art mags online. If you go into the cafe library, you’ll see some of Simon’s BANK pieces, etc. etc. Interviews of Patricia Bickers, Julian STallabrass, Honey Luard (White Cube PR guru), etc.

Roisin Byrne: Hi there Robert
Sounds really interesting and thanks for asking.
Would you drop me a line about how it might work?online or on the phone?
Thank a million.

R.J. Preece: Hi. Could you first send a link to a website, press pack or something that will show me an overview of what you are doing? Then I think we could take it from there. Yes, it’d be telephone.

Roisin Byrne Jochem Hendricks
Text supplied by Roisin Byrne: Look what you made me do: On the 13th of October 2008 moved by an admiration for his work contact with the artist Jochem Hendricks was made. 8 months later after ongoing correspondense and several meetings the artist gave over his bank details. An amount of money was stolen and a copy of his work was made." 24 carat 10 gram Degussa gold bar, 1 pay form belonging to the artist Mr. Jochem Hendricks, book, postcard, email correspondence." Young artists: As with all of the artworks presented, you are best advised to consult your art tutors, lawyers and various authorities before even thinking about making a comparable artwork!

Roisin Byrne: Wow,i just checked out your site. yes, very interesting am wondering what you might present to me if all goes ahead!!
I’ll send on a press pack if that’s ok,ill get round to it tonight .
Thanks again

R.J. Preece: Well, I was talking to John. He wrote Art & Celebrity, Art in the Age of Mass Media, and has a love/hate relationship with all of it, and he was talking about the show and mentioned your work and was not so keen and I said, "Well, it sounds perfect for ADP so I’d better call Simon. If she’s anywhere near Simon she must be good..." Hehe

[Six hours later]

Roisin Byrne: Hi there Robert
There is an article about my work in The Guardian tomorrow , i attach the link and i am sending some images with accompanying descriptions of the processes. Not sure if this is a ’press pack’ haven’t quite got a handle on that idea but shur have a look and tell me if you need more. Most works operate with an object and email correspondense
had between myself and the artists i have taken from but there are quite a few so now i attach only two.

R.J. Preece: Roisin, Let me have a think. We just released a collab with Coagula. You wouldn’t consider stealing Jones’s article in some way, would you?!

Roisin Byrne: Stealing Jones’s article are ye mad? what kind of resale value might i get for that i wonder? diddely squat hahaha!

Roisin Byrne Swarovski
Text supplied by Roisin Byrne: "Diamonds are forever : Between the months of October 2008 to January 2009 on various premises of fashionable retail outlets central London the artist R. Byrne ingested small amounts of private property. Following a strict diet of post retail cappucino the objects expelled remained unaltered, 2008. Various Swarovski™ diamonds with traces of soap and water." Again, young artists, this is an insane artwork, we cannot verify it happened, and you are best advised not to try this. At the very least, talk to your doctor!

R.J. Preece: LOL. Well I dunno. one idea could be to steal the words and recombine it to have it be an article about him. Every artist would love you dueling with the journo...

You might even inspire me. I dunno maybe you could be the editor’s guest tutor or something...

My dream of course is that you would steal Damien [Hirst]’s diamond skull... ;-)

Soon, as one artist for some odd reason declined an interview, I’ll soon be adopting their role in an interview, "This is what we think he would say..." [Or I’ll delegate this to Kim...]

Roisin Byrne: Hey, that’s a great idea i wouldn’t mind you being me at all, think Patty Hearst before the dogs after the politics with her gun days still seeming like a sexy recent.
Getting my hands on Damien’s diamonds is of course my dream too, he can keep his skull, god how boring is skull art!
Well i guess if the work interests you on some level lets do something, you don’t have to like it, why was Jone’s not keen? do tell.
Have a great weekend.

Roisin Byrne Ryan Gander
Text supplied by Roisin Byrne: "On the 4th of December 2009 the artist R. Byrne placed an order for a neon sign to be displayed at all times turned off. On hearing that she was in fact the second artist that week to order a neon to be displayed turned off and Ryan Gander the first, she ordered his instead. After using it to advertise Byrne’s solo show Gander complained to the gallery. Byrne’s show was pulled and Gander now states the work is not his. Approx 1 metre of red and yellow neon tubing, 6 metres of cable, 1 transformer, clear plexiglass, email correspondense."

R.J. Preece: We’re already on it here. We’re somehow going to ’steal’ Jones’s article and cite your influence and show a couple of pics.

[This conceptual appropriation art is still unfulfilled…]

If you want us to consider adding more photos, send them along...

What other publicity is coming your way?!

Roisin Byrne: That sounds great, i luv it, be sure to get me everything shiny and fabulous within his set margins, i have mental needs to satisfy.
I’ll think about the pics but like the ones you have. When does this go down? and then, when does it go live?Very excited to see what this comes out like.
I am a PR animal at the moment, its a work in itself, all avenues are being ripped so ill keep you informed : )
2nd film/documentary is on this coming Monday night and then that window is over, gotta reap.

R.J. Preece: Hi. I can get back on this on Wednesday. I teach a couple of classes here on how to do media interventions, I mean "media relations modules". Another dream is that these future PR officers will become this decade’s leading performance artists. They love diamond skull publicity, Emin brand-building and BANK press releases. They take excellent notes and propose some pretty innovative simulations.

Roisin Byrne: That’s totally interesting; PR being a performance, it’s how i think about it for sure, in its initial stages (contact) and then its materialisation in print or film. As a teacher and pioneer then of these interventions what would you think i need to hit next? I am trying to whip up a hate campaign from The Daily Mail (right wing tabloid) but there is a killer [ash] cloud and a national election getting in my way : )
Would love to hear your thoughts.

R.J. Preece: Hi: Let me have a think... in the meantime, check out Kim Min Su’s latest release at—the "interview" of Prince Cartrain.

KMS is a master of art media/communications... he found or morphed into a recent Goldsmiths grad too. Do you know her? You never know with those Korean conceptualists!

[11 days later]

Roisin Byrne: How are things going? Let me know if you need any more images.

R.J. Preece: A bit backed up here but still VERY interested. Give me a couple of weeks to get back on this. […]

[9 days later]

R.J. Preece: Roisin, Hi. If you by chance support the position of this article [about to go live], let me know. I’m going to be asking the Ed Advisors if they hold this position and will be adding their names to the author list.

If so, please also send a micro photo 95 x 90 or something bigger and I’ll crop. I’d refer to you as "Roisin Byrne, the theft artist".;-)

If not, no problemo, I just thought you might support the position.

[Click the article above to see the result!]

jonathan jones roisin byrne
Publicity output by Jonathan Jones and the Guardian. (Roisin Byrne stands in the middle.) To determine the financial value of the newspaper and TV coverage, please consult your public relations evaluation professional.

[A few days later...]

R.J. Preece: Roisin, Do you know these publicity-seeking cannibal-prima donnas?

+ Original Message +
From: Eva and Franco Mattes
To: [Art Design Publicity]
Sent: Wednesday, May 19, 2010 1:00 AM
Subject: Couple stole more than other artists’ ideas

Hi there,
everybody knows we stole a lot of ideas, but few know we stole more than that. The exhibition we opened last Saturday features "Stolen Pieces", a project we did in 1995-97 but never showed before. Art critic Blake Gopnik just wrote an in depth article with his take on the whole story

+ + +

I would trust their art historical accounts as much as Bush and Blair re. the reasons for the Iraq War!

Go get ’em girl, go get ’em. As we know, it is so easy to place things into the media...

Roisin Byrne: hey, thanks for that, what to do with them!!!!!? don’t know them from Adam but will do, no doubt... just hooked up with a Gallery in New York, they’ll be my Daddy there for a bit...

R.J. Preece: I think they might become an Internet BEAST.

They send FAR TOO MANY announcements to their list... the experience is like watching a documentary of teenagers sniffing glue.

They MUST be taken down.;-) I propose you invite them to have a show somewhere in Northern England with too many bars in one place. Convince them to dress like complete twats and have them give a performance on the street at the taxi queue about closing time. Then just leave them there and let the rabid English boys take care of them...

Keep me posted...

Roisin Byrne: I think that is a fabulous idea . the northern boys are full on like rabies but i would rather eat them alive myself and in public , this is war , true turf war . moving in gently .

M. Contraband, Esq. the PUNK lawyer
Portrait of M. Contraband, Esq. If you steal this photo, this PUNK lawyer-artist may be totally on you!

R.J. Preece: I’m not sure how, but M. Contraband, Esq.—the PUNK lawyer—might be able to assist...

A little possible musical inspiration for you. By KGC: ’I’ve got a fistful of daggers...’ This is KMFDM and the guy from Curve. The singer is the Industrial [Diva] Lucia...

Would you like to become an Art Design Publicity magazine editorial advisor?

I think your input could be really interesting...

Roisin Byrne: Sounds fab, bring me on hehe......


R.J. Preece: Hi, the interview is complete now! I’ll add you to the 2010 Ed Advisors list ASAP.

We can’t rewrite this, need to (try at least) to be directly honest with the readers. But DO feel free to redact bits. I’ll replace with ‘xxxx xxx’ underneath and blacken it.

Like any real conversation not totally saturated with publicity motive. Also, the redaction can be released at a later date if/when you like, like when you are 75 or whatever.

Like others, we know quite a few of art world secrets here— and keep them…

Welcome to the Art Design Publicity team!

Could you reply with your redactions ASAP? Then I’ll put it right up!

[Roisin Byrne opted to redact none of it]

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