Performance Anxiety: Will We Ever Meet the Real Julia Fox?

R.I.P. Julia Fox, Fox’s 2017 solo art show, imagined a post-Julia Fox world. Based around the concept that Fox has died, the show featured a chain-link fence latticed with wilting flowers and notes from friends extending their grief at the loss of their ‘baby girl’. The walls were adorned with silk canvases upon which Fox had painted, in her own blood, broken hearts and dead bodies. In press pictures, Fox glides around the show in a silk dress, a mourner at her own funeral.

That show told us three things about Fox: subtlety isn’t her game, publicity very much is, and ostentatious tackiness is the goal. R.I.P. Julia Fox is very much the key that unlocks the enigma of Julia Fox. She was never Ye’s muse, she was the artist all along.

 

 

And how well she fits the role. Fox’s ability to stay relevant, even after the Ye split (they lasted just over a month), is a testament to the persona she has created. Be it her deranged pronunciation of Uncut Gems or proclaiming her forthcoming book to be a masterpiece in a red carpet video clip that quickly went viral, Fox gives us crumbs and we thank her for the loaf.

Julia Fox should be considered in much the same way we think of Andy Warhol, Joseph Beuys, Orlan or, particularly, the Belgian conceptual artist Marcel Broodthaers. She is an artist whose strongest work is the persona she has created for herself. The artist-as-artwork is an enticing concept. Instead of producing pictures on a canvas, why not just become the canvas? Striving for artifice and deceit above all other traits, it is a total rejection of how a person is meant to be. The artist puts a wall between themselves and the world and dares you to find a crack.

Andy Warhol with Archie, his pet Dachshund, 1973. Photo by Jack Mitchell

Warhol is the most obvious example. The pop artist’s persona played almost as important a role in his success as his art (some would argue maybe even a more important role…). His blasé, nonchalant attitude towards seemingly everything and everyone, be it giving one-word answers in interviews or elevating simple supermarket goods to high art, helped craft an image which dared the art world to look away. Of course, the persona was all very obviously fake. If anything, Warhol embraced the artifice, right down to his badly-fitting wig. Much of the fun was seeing if he would ever let the mask fall.