The Real Thing differs from the other pieces in this series in a couple of key aspects. Firstly, this is the only painting not based on a Raphael original, rather it depicts a small section of The Last Supper, painted by Giampietrino which in turn was a copy of Da Vinci's original. Secondly, unlike the other painted works, this piece is for sale. The painting focuses on the figure of Jesus, with the other twelve figures having been cropped and only two disembodied hands remaining, gesticulating from beyond the right edge. Notably, the lower third of the image has been overlaid with solid red, and a small coca cola bottle sits on the table near the hand of Jesus. Other than these two elements, the copy is faithful to Giampietrino's.
This painting seeks to move forward the ideas that connect the entire body of work. Rather than an intrusion onto the picture plane, obscuring the image, the image itself is taken into account and altered more subtly. The Coca Cola bottle acts as a metonym, it stands in as the archetype of globalised corporate capitalism whilst replacing the sacramental wine of the eucharist. Once again, the primary reading of this symbolic depiction is that under spectacular society, the only salvation remaining is consumption; consumerism being the sole utopian dream left to the hegemonic globalised culture.1 The allegory can be pushed further. The Christian understanding of the eucharist varies from a literal transubstantiation of the bread and wine, to an invocation of the divine Spirit.
The Real Thing, 2015, Oil on Panel, 21x30cm
Whatever the tradition, the sacrament is associated with a special presence of Christ during the ritual. This theological understanding can be applied to the painting: Through the consumption of the product, the individual can have a direct connection to the Debordian spectacle. The product is transmuted into a physical incarnation of late-capitalism in which everyone can share. We are one body because we all share in one carbonated soft drink. It is not a symbolic process or figurative liturgical replacement, it is The Real Thing.
The red at the bottom of the painting does obscure the image, similar to others in the series, but more significantly it invokes a duality of connotations. Firstly red has a myriad of associations in the traditions of Christian art, including divine love, pentecost and the blood of Christ. However, this is also the trademarked red of the Coca Cola brand, so there is a conflation of spiritually significant symbolism and the graphic visual language of advertising. As with the bottle, this is a device to display the deterritorialisation of religious and aesthetic domains by global capitalism. This occurs at a fundamental level through commodification and the subsequent fetishisms and as a criticism of such processes, this painting is for sale. The sale price is unusual in that it does not pretend to reflect the labour-time, material cost or “creativity” of the piece, it is instead tied to the global average cost of a 500ml bottle of Coca Cola. At the time of writing, this stands at £0.93. This price engages with and satirises the art-market whilst criticising the commensurability that the market structure entails. It allows the painting to become an ideal commodity, affordable, spiritual, reflexive and Real. Always Real.
1Hielscher, Martin. 2015. 'Adorno And Aesthetic Theory.'. Egs.Edu.