Paul McCarthy, Untitled (Dirty Dotty), 1992/2001, cibachrome photograph, 72 x 48 inches. From the series “Propo.”

IN THE FINAL SCENE of Paul McCarthy’s video Painter, 1995, the artist climbs onto a coffee table and bends over. Under the watchful eye of a buffoonish dealer, a collector pulls down McCarthy’s underwear and zealously sniffs his ass. “Yeah, very nice!” says the collector with gusto. “I thought you’d like that!” replies the dealer with tender pride. The derisive scene suggests that artworks are akin to precious waste, and it gives us a whiff of McCarthy’s attitude toward sales. Where Piero Manzoni famously canned his shit and sold it for the price of its weight in gold, McCarthy likes to play with his, symbolically, in the form of chocolate sauce and figurines and in his desire to possess and rework much of his output.

For the first twenty years of his artistic career, McCarthy admits that he didn’t think about selling work. He performed for his video camera by himself in his kitchen

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