Istvan Kantor aka Monty Cantsin – founder of Neoism – Vandalizes Jeff Koons Exhibition at the Whitney Museum

As widely reported in the media, Istvan Kantor aka Monty Cantsin vandalized the Jeff Koons exhibition at the Whitney Museum in New York City on August 20.

Kantor managed to write a message on a blank wall using his own blood before he was apprehended, removed from the museum and confined in a mental hospital. No artwork was damaged. Kantor has a long history of similar art actions in museums and galleries across the world.

Kantor and mail-art legend David Zack established Neoism in the late 1970s. The underground movement reached an audience of many thousands if not millions in the 1980s and into the 1990s by skillful promotion via the international mail-art network and related zine networks. Kantor is not known to be currently active in the mail-art network but certainly stands as a historical figure.

A cabal known as “The 14 Secret Masters of the World,” members alleged to have been well-known mail-artists, were involved in the promulgation of Neoism as well. Their identities remain mostly unknown and disputed, although Blaster Al Ackerman self-identified as a ringleader of the group.

Monty Cantsin is a multiple-user identity created by Zack and Kantor. Originally, Cantsin was conceived as the identity of an imaginary pop star anyone could become for a limited period of time.

Neoism’s decline (at least in the mail-art network) was related to a belief among members that the Monty Cantsin identity was too closely identified with Kantor. British author and artist Stewart Home created another multiple-user identity – Karen Eliot – at least in part as a response to Kantor’s use of Monty Cantsin. A third multiple-user identity – Luther Blissett – is also associated with Neoism.

Neoism splintered and evolved into various other movements and projects connected to the mail-art network: Plagiarism, Tourism, Anti-Neoism and the global art strike of the early ’90s, among others. Some former Neoists as well as new initiates currently identify themselves as Post-Neo and have a presence both in and outside the network.

Kantor, recipient of Canada’s Governor General’s Award in performing arts, underwent extensive psychiatric evaluation following his art action and was soon released.


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