the time we delivered our joint lecture on October 9, 2008, at
the Arts and Societies Seminar, the situation was manifestly no
longer what it had been three months earlier, on June 15, 2008,
when the Argent (Money) exhibition opened at the Île de
France/Le Plateau FRAC (Fonds régional d’art
contemporain, the Regional Contemporary-Art Fund of Île
de France/Le Plateau).
In a few days
in September, the Lehman Brothers Bank asked for and obtained
bankruptcy protection. The American Insurance Group (AIG) was
saved at the last minute by the Federal Reserve. And such financial
giants as Merrill Lynch and the Halifax Bank of Scotland had to
be sold to competitors. Commentators have begun to compare the
present economic situation to the Great Depression of 1929. The
American financial crisis spread like wildfire to European banks
and markets and then worldwide, and now a recession seems inevitable.
The basic features
of the American financial crisis are well known: ill-advised loans
to uncreditworthy households seeking to buy homes, securitization
and expansion throughout the economy of the riskiest loans, downturn
of the American real-estate market and snowball effect of a lack
of confidence among financial agents, drying up of interbank loans
and of credit within the economy. Could these mechanisms have
been foreseen? Does this crisis point to the failure of monetary
policies since the 1980s and, in particular, to the failure of
the “new consensus,” which had been raised to the
rank of an intellectual foundation for the modern central banks?
It is not uninteresting,
within this context, to take an interest in art values. Indeed,
some correlations have sometimes been observed between art prices
and real-estate prices in large cities, for example. A number
of writers have laid stress, the past few years, on the significance
of “hedge funds” in the purchase and rapid resale
of contemporary art. Especially contemporary art. For, it is in
this area that prices climbed 132 percent between July 1, 1991
and July 1, 1992, or five times higher than what was observed
in the other sectors of the market, like old and modern paintings.
One could also
observe that the world art market was up sharply in 2007 (according
to the annual report of world markets, Cyclope). Sales
on the auction market, estimated at $15 billion, are said to have
increased last year, on a like-for-like basis, by 37% over 2006.
It is in China (now accounting, according to some estimations,
for 20% of the world market in contemporary art) and among Russian
oligarchs, certainly, that one should seek the causes for these
rising figures; indeed, sales of Asian art, usually organized
in London and New York, have been expanded by sales in Hong Kong,
Beijing, and Shanghai. Next, one must reckon with Chinese artists,
who have exploded, en masse, upon the chart of records: three
of them figure in the “2007 Top Ten” and ten have
sold works for above one-million dollars.
What does the
art market hold for us now? Can one think it will remain isolated
and retain its autonomy? Can the new markets of China and Russia
compensate for the retreat of Western buyers, when Asian stock
markets are now in turn in the process of falling off? It is common
knowledge that the correlation between financial markets and the
art market is not direct and that the latter takes a little more
than a year to react; the first bad figures would therefore be
only an initial reaction to the subprime crisis of last year,
according to The Art Newspaper.
In any case, on
September 15--Black Monday for world finance--the British artist
Damien Hirst collected 89 million euros. In two days, the auction,
organized by Sotheby’s in London, of 223 of the British
artist’s recent works brought in 139.2 million euros--a
record for a sale devoted to a single artist, and far ahead of
Looked upon by
the artist as a mini-retrospective, this exceptional sale had
the additional peculiarity that it afforded itself the luxury
of being a “statement” event. Indeed, the auction
grouped together works that had never before been exhibited, ones
taken directly from the studio, from the artist’s factory,
without going through a middleman. That constituted a first for
this famous auction house, which had never, since its establishment
in 1744, offered a direct sale from an artist. For the artist,
it was “all profit”! By not passing by way of an art
gallery, Hirst supposedly “saved” 40-50% on commissions
as he received nearly all the profits from the sale. Some critics
have mentioned the risk that, by offering so many works in one
shot, he might lower his quoted value: but Hirst clinched a new
record with the star attraction of the sale, The Golden Calf,
which was carried away for 12.9 million euros.
Greeted in the
art world as a provocation and a scandal, the “Hirst sale”
can be analyzed in another way, and first of all as the continuation
of a series of artistic projects that have been aimed at questioning
or mimicking economic phenomena. Indeed, it may be analyzed as
a continuation of the “covering up” of the field of
aesthetics by the field of political economy, a project that might
perhaps define, as well as other ones, postmodern art.
One must first
note one very simple thing: among the cultural forms of expression
(one can think here of music, theater, dance, and even literature),
the visual arts are very much a domain in which money is visible,
if not shown--and not only in the ostentation of a Marie-Antoinette
at the Chateau de Versailles. Money has often been problematized
in and through works of art. Since the origins of Western painting,
coin, along with the direct or indirect relationship with the
payer, has been given figural form, weighed, even represented
(by the choice of one color rather than another, in terms of its
cost, etc.). Artists have scrutinized crowns and wondered about
the various organs of the art market. Money is not just an iconography,
and some other artists have proposed an alternative economic circuit
or have turned themselves into economic researchers, setting art
up as a laboratory. These past few years, the indexation of art
prices upon prices of luxury goods and the increasingly conspicuous
influence of the private sector (collectors, trustees, patrons,
etc.) on public or official arts events have undoubtedly transformed
in a lasting way the “dealer-critic system” set in
place at the end of the nineteenth century, to go along with the
new aesthetic, an alternative to official taste. The result is
that the media have practically stopped producing any evaluative
discourse on art works that does not take into account the market’s
own evaluation or the marketing terminologies of public relations.
need to go back just a little bit in time, to nearly three years
ago and the Miami art fair (a satellite of the one in Bâle)
from which one of us returned simply stunned by the overwhelming
power of the event, where what is literally a “fair city”
dedicated almost entirely to speculation on contemporary art,
or at least the staging thereof, took place. Few events (“La
Couleur de l’Argent” [The color of money] at Paris’s
Postal Museum) had been devoted to this theme. Whence the idea
of an exhibition, L’Argent (Money), undertaken
by the two of us for and with Le Plateau, an arts center operated
with public funds in Paris’s nineteenth arrondissement.
For us, it was
a matter of not being superfluous and therefore of distancing
ourselves from an exhibition “on the art market,”
like artists who “do” the market (Koons, Hirst, Murakami,
Cai Guoqiang, Zheng Fanshi, Liu Xiaodong, etc.). We nixed that
scenario straight off. Thus, in L’Argent just one
video dealt with quoted values and investment in the art market--a
“trailer” produced for the Arte televison network
whose definitive version has yet to be completed.
Our first task
was to inform ourselves face-to-face about the ways in which artists
“talk” about money--with their works, that is, and
not in their own lives. And we therefore had to ask artists first
how they broach these questions within their work. This research
materialized in an exhibition that occurred in two, or rather
three, times and places: (1) the time and place of compiling,
archiving, and reading a vast amount of documentary material we
had brought together about works from the past or ones so far
removed geographically that they could not be lent to an institution
and a space like Le Plateau; (2) the hanging of lent works, most
often ones from Paris or ones that could easily be obtained from
elsewhere; and, finally, (3) during the period of the public exhibition,
a number of performances (by Annette Messager, Tania Bruguera,
Cesare Pietroiusti), of moments of encounter (with critics, with
the Société Réaliste, with the website
Poptronics and Internet artists, with the shareholders of Ouest-Lumière,
with the Paris Biennale and its association of supporters), filmed
interviews, and especially new and spontaneous contributions from
artists whom we did not yet know and who came to enrich the show.
is necessarily made from decisions and from a subjective selection
and hanging of works, the responsibility for which we accept.
Two considerations serve to attenuate this general statement.
First, money--the subject of our exhibition--is obviously
an involved party in this exhibition, as with any exhibition.
Nowadays, discussion of the budget for an exhibition concerns
less the artistic choices than the transportation costs and insurance
estimates (we have been able to observe that, during the show,
certain exhibited works saw their insurance estimates increase
exponentially, in keeping with the “new market prices”
for artists following the Bâle fair). So, an exhibition
on money is also, under the conditions we accepted, an exhibition
with little money--not even enough to allow publication of a catalogue.
A second remark is in order here: we tried to incorporate into
this exhibition proposals that to us seemed “major”
or “interesting,” precisely ones that called back
into question our own aesthetic presuppositions for evaluation
and judgment. Finally, we chose, voluntarily or involuntarily,
to show “materialized” works or proposals more than
dematerialized efforts--in accordance here, no doubt, with the
logic of an already established program involving the institution
and its pedagogical mission. We asked Annick Rivoire and her Poptronics
website to carefully untangle the question of the Internet economy
and of the possible tie-ins artists’ projects construct
there--with the hope that other exhibitions, different ones, might
be constructed elsewhere and otherwise.
includes a few images that we did not exhibit.
Serge Gainsbourg burned a 500-franc note as a token of his artistic
celebrity. Such celebrity is decidedly based upon spending--a
notion dear to Georges Bataille that gave rise to a lovely exhibition
at the Pompidou Center in 1979, back when Pontus Hulten was the
director of the museum. That exhibition, curated by Jürgen
Harten and Horst Kurnitzky, was entitled: Musée des
sacrifices, Musée de l’argent (Museum of sacrifices,
museum of money). Money paints; it is a subject that goes beyond
the question of modernism.
The scene is painted. Leaning on a green felt table, the color
of gambling tables, and seated before a background obstructed
by bare shelves, a male character and a female character appear
side by side. Their faces incline forward, looking at what the
man is doing. With lowered eyelids, the man, concentrating fully
on what he is doing, weighs money with a skillful hand. He could
do it with his eyes closed. That is his trade. Money changer?
Lender? Usurer? The era in which this canvas (The Moneylender
and his Wife, 1514, Louvre Museum, Paris) by the Flemish
artist Quentin Metsys was painted belongs to a pivotal period
in the history of Western Christianity, when the money trades
appeared along with men who live off the proceeds made from money
without themselves being producers of wealth.
He acts and she
looks. Leaning over, her eyes trained on what he is handling,
the female character, both of her hands placed on a book of hours,
flips through images related to contemplation without actually
seeing them. A mirror in the foreground reflects the presence
of a third person, the indication of a no doubt attentive countenance.
He integrates the point of view of the spectator. He puts us in
our place. We are good clients.
Commerce is part and parcel of artistic work and sometimes rises
back up to the work’s surface. Because the sum paid by the
patron, Charles Ephrussi, exceeded the price asked for his painting
Bunch of Asparagus (1880), Manet made for him, in addition,
Asparagus (1880), a single one, “since one in your
bunch was missing.” The buyer did indeed get his money’s
worth: Manet exhibited here two distinct visual projects, two
for the price of one: a picture plus a “picture of the picture”
(as Éric Alliez has said) nakedly exposing the previous
one and casting light on the context, the size, and the orientation
of the vegetable, as well as its pictorial physicality. The solitary
asparagus, like a pale corpse, “without any artifice in
its presentation, which even still in Chardin gave it class and
distinction” (as Thierry de Duve has said) is, thus, the
foreign element that de-idealizes the exchange.
Hans Haacke. While
Asparagus ended up in the Orsay Museum, Bunch of
Asparagus went into the Wallraf-Richartz Museum collection
in Cologne. Invited in 1974 to commemorate the centennial of this
museum, Haacke designed a series of panels. The first one is a
reproduction of Manet’s painting. Each of the ten others
presents the people who bought the picture after its completion
by the painter, along with the price they payed to acquire it.
The description of the social and economic status of those who
possessed this painting is a contemporary-art project. The museum
director turned this project down. Haacke’s exhibition finally
took place at the Paul Maenz Gallery of Cologne.
In 1986, at the
Consortium in Dijon, Haacke presented Les Must de Rembrandt,
a monument that explains the relationships between the Rembrandt
Trust (the largest Afrikaner business group under Apartheid),
the Richemont financial group, and Cartier Monde--which owns Cartier’s
Must (“must-haves”) line. Photos of black
workers in gold mines and coal mines, whose attempts at an uprising
had been violently repressed, were framed by the inscription in
gold letters of the names of all Rembrandt companies in South
Africa. Later, in a famous dialogue, the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu
and Hans Haacke endeavored to offer an update on the power changes
that had taken place in the world of art since the 1980s. That
was a time when the idealization of companies and of the business
world was represented, in the manufacture of aesthetic value,
through the intervention of financial groups as a way of offering
a form of symbolic domination over exhibition policy.
In 1919, he signed a fictitious, handmade check he gave to Dr.
Daniel Tzanck, the then-president of the French Society of Art
Collectors, in payment for the dental work done on the artist.
The bank Duchamp created from which to draw a check was called
“The Teeth’s Loan & Trust Company, Consolidated,”
headquartered on Wall Street. Duchamp reported that he bought
back his check from the dentist at a much higher price than the
sum written on it. During the same period this check was fabricated,
Duchamp captured 50 cubic centimeters of Air de Paris
in order to bring it to the American collector Walter Conrad Arensberg.
In 1925, Duchamp
found a way of imagining the means to play at the Monaco Casino
without financial worry. To build up the capital, it sufficed,
he thought, to float 500-franc bonds at 20 percent interest (see
the bond, opposite). Thirty bonds were printed showing the image
of a larger-than-life Duchamp in the style of a little devil with
outsized ears, the face covered in shaving cream. His portrait
is to be found on the roulette wheel, a composition made by his
friend Man Ray. Each note bears Duchamp’s signature and
that of “Rrose Sélavy.” Alas, the artist’s
effort was not crowned with success. Only two bonds were to be
sold, though those ones to members of high society: Jacques Doucet
and Marie Laurencin.
Yves Klein. Klein
consumed the consumption of Zones of Immaterial Pictorial
Sensibility, the “ritual” rules of whose transfer
Klein was to set in 1958. Each zone was worth a certain weight
in gold. Yet authentic immateriality (immortality?) has no price--unless,
that is, the buyer would burn his certificate and throw half of
the weight of gold in a river in the presence of a museum director,
a well-known art dealer, or a critic and two witnesses. At the
moment the buyer thinks that he has acquired his coin of pictorial
immateriality, he obtains but ashes.
To the prospect of the cacophonous mythologies of Beuys, who seemed
to have taken on all the roles, the art historian Thierry de Duve
responded with a unique figure for designating this creative artist,
that of “the artist as proletarian.” This in no way
implies his ideological alignment around certain class positions,
but rather “a faculty for producing value that, in order
to be authentic, has to be unique to the artist.” Now, what
Beuys promises is the universalization of this faculty, this labor
power, through a malleable system of generalized “creativity.”
“Kunst = Kapital,” Art equals Kapital, the capital
of coming social change. Utopia and reality. Located now in the
Hallen für Neue Kunst of Schaffhausen (Switzerland), Beuys’s
piece Das Kapital Raum 1970-1977, originally done for
the Venice Biennale in 1980, can be seen as the condensation of
thought-spaces and object-spaces that were already being produced
starting in 1970.
Andy Warhol. In
English, “I buy it” means not only “I am purchasing”
something but also “I believe it,” I am in agreement,
I subscribe thereto, I sign off on it. That’s it! “I
sign.” Art implies a tacit or overt commerce between production
and looking. In 1975, in The Philosophy of Andy Warhol
(From A to B & Back Again), Warhol stated, “Business
art is the step that comes after Art. I started as a commercial
artist, and I want to finish as a business artist. . . . Making
money is art, and working is art and good business is the best
There is no point
in becoming indignant, Warhol seemed to be saying. However little
one might subscribe thereto, one must admit that his work sets
the torch to any vague attempts at differentiating the “disinterested”
collector from the consumer, nay even from the speculator. Warhol
wanted to be a machine; he was the “cash register of art”
(Thierry de Duve), of all media likely to become art, whether
it be painting, cinema, television, the print media, or any sort
of hide or film. Exhibiting the dollar, a car accident, an electric
chair, or the most “wanted” men (manhunt = sexual
desire)--all these were for him (but also for us) equivalent subjects
of the same value.
and the bankruptcy of the museum. Take the invitation card for
Broodthaers’s first show in 1964: “I, too, wondered
whether I could not sell something and succeed in life. . . .
Finally the idea of inventing something insincere finally crossed
my mind.” This “something insincere” is indicative
of Broodthaers’s ongoing reflection on the constant in the
work of art: “I mean the transformation of Art into merchandise,”
when all the utopian potentials of modernist beliefs have been
exhausted. Take the art object in the era of the culture industry.
This is what he is articulating, straight off, without establishing
a hierarchy among productions, reproductions, commentaries, catalogues,
films, sets, and exhibitions. “Art as the Art of Selling”
was the subtitle of his 1972 show at the MTL Gallery in Antwerp.
In 1968, Broodthaers
opened a museum at his home: the Museum of Modern Art, Department
of Eagles (Nineteenth-Century Section), making reference to the
mythical authority of the eagle as well as to its notorious stupidity.
Broodthaers inscribed the name of the museum on his windows and
stocked his apartment with works’ shipping crates, hermetic
sarcophagi displaying only the names and indications of their
place of destination. These crates gave figural form to the visual
arts while signifying the disappearance of the work in museum
presentations. The invention of an empty institutional identity
producing a program, many and varied papers, and so on, is a critical
way of looking at official exhibition sites, their storage practices,
and how they legitimate art. The staging of the museumification
of the visual arts was continued through the opening of various
Sections--including the Financial Section in 1971--until the institution
closed for reasons of bankruptcy in 1972. For its creator, art
could survive only so long as it admitted its subordination to
the dominant values: ideology and speculation. The final stage
was to occur when the museum, which had itself become a commodity,
was put up for sale: what remains is the art of the production
2. Here is where
our exhibition began. We thought that we had too many works, and
that turned out not to be the case. The spatial articulation of
the hanging of the show allowed several configurations and their
interactions to be distinguished.
the entrance to the exhibition was a sign by Claude Rutault that
had been hung on the balcony of the Parisian office of Ghislain
Mollet-Viéville beginning in September 1996. Rutault made
the collector responsible for literally pro-ducing his work by
painting it the same color as the wall for which it was destined.
In this way, the “production of production” confers
upon the work, as it is exhibited, a paradoxical temporality.
This is summed up here in the form of a “For Rent”
type of sign.
and First Room: Questions of Gender and of Authorial Rights.
To us, it seemed
appropriate to open the festivities with works that immediately
integrate the question of the artists’ bodies, of the bodies
of those viewing their installations . . . and of the bodies of
the organizers, too.
The inscription “Let’s make lots of money” is
a proposal from the artist to be implemented by the exhibition’s
organizers, to whom were left the “manner” and the
placement of the text’s inscription.
of gender, sex, and sexuality also weighed on the alleged universalism
of the exhibition arrangements--and, therefore, on the productions
that subvert the exhibition’s economy and its very subjects.
At the 1977 Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain (FIAC;
International Contemporary-Art Fair), Orlan, seated behind the
image of a nude bust set on stage, invited people for Le Baiser
de l’artiste (The artist’s kiss), promising a
kiss to every person who inserted five francs into a specially
built slot set between the two breasts. The coin slid down the
plastic esophagus and then suddenly fell to the bottom of a transparent
pubis-drawer. At that moment, the client received his or her kiss.
Here, Orlan lent her support to a visual, auditory, and odoriferous
reconstitution of this action. One thinks also of the offerings
of Annette Messager, which make of the everyday their raw material,
thereby ceaselessly parodying the sexual differences supposedly
also at work in a visual economy.
chose to install, in situ, an installation of metal poles connected
by ropes that set up a waiting line, a way of directing the bodies
of visitors as if they were, for example, in a bank. The ropes
were made of (fake) hair of many colors. This was an unexpected
incursion of an extension of the body, one tied to female seduction
(cf. the hair of Mélisande), that replays on this stage
of money the ongoing concerns of these artists from Portugal:
the female body as money (Une direction, 2003).
(Golden Brot, 1983). We would have loved to have, of
course, the much-talked-about Brandt/Fichet Bauche, a refrigerator
set atop a safe. The thing proving too heavy for the exhibition
space, what he really wanted was one of his vitrines (display
cabinets for a collection) to be filled with a number of fetish
objects dealing with the issue of the “monetarization”
of art: Wim Delvoye’s “Action Doll” tie-in,
Shu Lea Chang’s Monnaie d’ail (Garlic money),
a copy of Jessica Diamond’s “Do It” project,
Sol LeWitt, and Lawrence Weiner. In 1971, Seth Siegelaub gave
up playing the role of a conceptual-art exhibition organizer in
order to take the time to prepare “The Artist’s Reserved
Rights Transfer and Sales Agreement,” in which it was proposed
that the artist receive 15 percent of the profits garnered from
each of the transactions concerning his works. Money as “the
sinews of war”: the supposed purity of the art work is thus
haunted, infuriated nonstop, by the questions of life and survival.
The personal is political in matters of art and money, too.
In the second room, after passing by a poster by Arnaud Labelle-Rojoux,
we had productions, whether collective or not, of works from the
1980s, of a new social relation to businesses, and of the rethinking
of the traditional role of artists opposite or against corporate
communications, including within the culture industries.
Thus we had Ouest-Lumière,
which was an electrical generator bought by Yann Toma before becoming
a joint-stock company whose goal is to “produce and distribute
Artistic Energy for the next hundred years.” Among the numerous
artistic firms that spurn the individual identity of the modern
artist and choose instead to label their products under the heading
of “design,” there was also Information, Fiction,
Publicité (IFP; Information, fiction, advertising). In
a lighted box with the group’s logo on it appears the transaction
performed to buy the work, the check for which is at once the
indication, the icon, and the referent (Société
Générale, 1984). General Idea’s “copyright
paintings” (1987), on jeans or with a gilded logo, are part
of the same effort at enunciation and denunciation mixed together.
Générale (General rehearsal). We may ask whether
in the 1980s, during the boom in the Western markets that lasted
until 1989, the implementation of new advertising, promotional,
and media practices designed to give visibility to artistic “trends,”
the increase in the number of large exhibitions, and the industrialization
of culture, including that of artistic products, were accompanied
by a change in the status of the artist. Philippe Cazal, for example,
exposed the figure of “the artist in his environment,”
surrounded by champagne, cocaine, and pretty girls, everything
fitted out with price tags. “The Artist”: a fashionable
profession? La Magie du Succès (The magic of success,
1986) is a form of staging that was already nostalgic before being
recognized as such.
Sensitive to the
way in which the media have transformed art into cliches and the
figure of the artist into a buffoon, Ernest T., under this elusive
pseudonym (the T as modernist emblem of orthogonality, the right
angle), produced canvases as banners that allowed him to ridicule
this other self of his with impunity and to make that self into
the object of a strategy that denounces at the same time that
it enunciates the meanness of the art market. As an artist, Gilles
Mahé is one of the inventors of “free” or “gratuitous”
art. He makes visible those who pay for this free or gratuitous
art, the advertisers manufacturing the very material of its publication.
Through gratuitousness, art given away for free, one makes manifest
the shift toward the advertiser that is being carried out by all
media--magazines as well as television and today the internet--though
this economic model for the Web is today being brought back into
At MaMCO in Geneva
something described as stocking was installed (and sometimes shown).
It is that of the agency known as Readymades Belong to Everyone®,
which opened in New York in 1987 and closed in 1993. “I
am part of a fiction for producing something that truly fits into
reality,” the agency says. Created by Philippe Thomas, this
agency proposes that “characters”--a deliberately
ambiguous term--enter into art history through his library--his
catalogues, his lists, and his registers. In short, he proposes
the archiving of the work, before it comes into existence, as
the real stake in the transaction. The agency’s “clients”
then pay for their signature and, with it, the entrance fee into
a small theater where collectors, curators, critics, art historians
and journalists take on figural form. This small theater does
not appear as such but rather in the bureaucratic image of the
managing company and of its images, all the fictional consequences
of which Thomas has imagined.
This company did
not limit itself, however, to producing works whose singularity
derives from the fact that their first sale is accompanied by
the attribution of their signature to the buyer--a procedure inspired
by the one quite commonly used in literary fiction and which,
in the case of the novelist, consists in attributing remarks,
thoughts, or even entire works to characters. As an inevitable
development of the internal logic of this agency’s work,
it passed in 1991 from attributing a single work to giving attribution
to an entire exhibition. The quotation of the title of a book
by Nabokov, Pale Fire, at the Centre d’arts plastiques
contemporains (CAPC, Center of Contemporary Visual Arts) of Bordeaux,
afforded a re-envisioning of the entire history of the Western
museum and went so far as to associate it with various works of
unknown artists (clients of the agency) which are hung on the
walls with the blessing of the institution that signs the show.
As Patricia Falguières has pointed out, it is a matter
not of a physical retreat, but of a genuine re-investiture, of
the exhibition. This is an exhibition in which the verbal and
the visual, the book and the site would no longer be opposed to
one another. In this way the stock, the stocking, the archiving,
the planning boards, and the postcards ultimately become the Cabinet
d’Amateur (collector’s gallery) of the aesthetics
makes his way through similar problems: not only do his “stacks”
and his mounds of candy merge the one with the many, the autographical
character of the work of art with the allographic character of
the book and of the musical work, but, in addition, it is up to
the buyer to invest for them to be produced. The personal is political:
with his paintings representing the graphics of the current state
and progressive decrease in T4 cells (displaying in this way the
decline in the artist’s vital functions), Gonzalez-Torres
invites us to meditate on a sort of speculation that affects not
only works but also the life and death of artists.
In December 1979,
“The Miss General Idea Boutique” opened at the Carmen
Lamana Gallery in Toronto. The show was at once a sculpture and
a sales counter, a feature that signals quite well the dual function
of work and product. The boutique, qua “artwork and artshop,”
anticipates the development of the “museum shop” while
being installed within a gallery, then, later, within a museum
exhibition space--which is justified, let it be said in passing,
only in its separation from the sales shop: by transforming the
Museum of Modern Art of the City of Paris into a Hybermarché
(Hybermarket), Fabrice Hyber was likewise to foist this same sort
of structural perversion. In its subsequent presentations, the
shop becomes by turns a “work,” closed to sales and
simply visitable, and a “shop,” open for buying, depending
on the day, the place, and so on. Other versions also exist, such
as General Idea’s ¥en Boutique (1989), which
we presented at Le Plateau. The gallery or museum space thus promotes
merchandise General Idea has produced, inspired by the fact that
marketing of a product exists before the production process and
the production line start up--with such “preventive appearances”
as market research, fashion shows, and television casting calls.
Room: “Bling Bling” and Dematerilized Money.
A statement by
Philippe Cazal, “Art doesn’t give credit,” is
set before some photos by Marylène Negro that make reference
to an action performed several times during the exhibition and
that consisted in leaving a Cadeau (Gift)--the schematic
drawing of a gift-wrapped package--on the windshields of cars
in the neighborhood where Le Plateau is located.
With the “cash
machine” painting by Claire Fontaine--a very young artist
who “makes use of her fresh and youthful appearance to transform
herself into an ordinary, everyday individual and into an existential
terrorist in search of emancipation”--and the perpetual
and unending investigation undertaken by Sophie Calle (with Fabio
Balducci), representations centered around the dematerialization
of money were expounded. Olga Kisseleva and her Troll mirror with
a dollar sign invited us to look into the mythologies of money
under Communism. Michel François makes a mass of pastry
boxes into a pile of gold like Scrooge McDuck’s.
with his terrorist realism, has manufactured a huge Swiss watch
out of cardboard. Sylvie Fleury has reproduced, unchanged but
in heavy marble, a Chanel shopping bag. Matthieu Laurette has
offered, here again, one of his conceptual propositions: a graph
representing the euro/dollar exchange rate over the year preceding
the inauguration of the exhibition.
Room: Money Materialized, Scrutinized, and Displayed. The “Doc”
and its Photocopier.
Plying money to
show its color, its odor, its hallucinatory effects. With her
blister-packed pills, which promise all sorts of transformations,
all kinds of changes “instantaneously,” and which
she sells in museum shops all over, Dana Wyse has set up a parallel
economy in galleries and on the market for rarities.
After the fall
of the Berlin Wall and the stock-market crash, Moyra Davey closely
examined with her camera at the end of the 1980s and in the early
1990s the surface of one-cent coins, the humblest money emitted
by the American Treasury, as well as bills. Cildo Meireles put
bills “out of circulation.” Zoe Leonard displayed
one-hundred one-dollar bills she found, each one provided with
inscriptions. A very large number of bills presented, photographed,
represented, certificates or other traces of stock shares, such
as that of the Mur de l’Argent (Money wall), and
bleeding bills by Michel Journiac populated this room of works
by Adel Abdessemed, Antoni Muntadas, Claude Closky, Ernest T,
Malachi Farrell, Et n’est-ce* & / etc., Dana Wyse, Kris
Martin, Cildo Meireles, Moyra Davey, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Gabriel
Orozco, Hans-Peter Feldmann, Ed Kienholz and Nancy Reddin, Sigmar
Polke, Zoe Leonard, David Hammons, Cady Noland, Josephine Pryde,
Fabien Hommet, and so on.
Two Generations, Two Business Firms
From the work
of Iain Baxter&--who, in the name of his company N.E. Thing,
organized a game of monopoly with real money in a bank in 1973--we
have also exhibited some landscape paintings borrowed from Canadian
bank notes, where he confined himself to hiding the numbers with
a picture mount (1969).
Réaliste, a group of “political designers,”
has commented: “Physical money is the systematic meeting
point between politics and economics: there is no commercial exchange
without liquid assets, no State without issuance of its own money.”
Their work Marka (2008) has three components: a sculpture
in metal, representing a 10X enlargement of a one-euro coin, with
the grooves on the object’s edge removed in order that one
might read the names of the countries forming the perimeter of
the European fortress; a political world map, retrieved from CIA
databases, that appears superimposed on the Europe in the numismatic
design which constitutes the heads side of the one-euro coin;
and a series of vinyl stickers that remind us of the derivations
of marka in French: “a sign marking a boundary,” marka
yields marche (step) marcher (walking), marge
(margin), mark, marquer (marking), marque
(brand), marquis, and so on.
F. Fourth articulation:
Figured, Disfigured; Money and the Image’s Means
the euro painted and dripped in Larry River’s style by Rena
Spaulings, a collective artist and dealer, are the Gloria Friedmann
carpet representing a currency-exchange room and a videogram in
which cows, painted with the symbols of stock-market indexes,
are surrounded by folk dancers, not far from the video of a performance
by Cesare Pietroiusti and Paul Griffiths that combines ingestion,
digestion, and excretion, a cycle in which money always come out
white, as if laundered. L’Argent (Money), Suzanne
Lafont’s photographic polyptych full of pictorial and cinematographic
references, offers a counterpoint to these icons.
Lawler, with two images of paintings hung in rooms of auction
houses, shows the loss of autonomy of the art work, which no longer
appears nor is apprehended any longer, even visually, outside
of the economic context of an exhibition.
While the world
of art is magnetically drawn to globalized capitalism, while arts
events are indissolubly connected with the promotion of tourism,
shopping, real estate, and speculation, and while one must bow
to these globalizing trends, these things undoubtedly do not occur
without one having a word to say about them. For, artists have
a lot to teach us and have taught us a lot during these past few
months in the company of their works--if only to comment upon
this exhibition on money and the way it was organized. This exhibition
was the fruit of a confrontation among works and with the curators
that has allowed some significant articulations to be sketched
out. The social transformations that occurred during the 1980s,
before the fall of the Wall, became more vivid to us. This was
back at a time when the status of the author was being turned
upside down and that of businesses (including cultural ones) was
glorified. The AIDS epidemic is indissolubly linked to this moment
of oscillation between public and private, when the “I”
of utterance, of illness, and of exclusion was inscribed upon
the (anonymous) Wall of money and capitalization.
The period after
the fall of the Wall, with its excess of consumption (including
that of images), seemed to us to coincide, both spatially and
chronologically, with the dematerialization of money. The question
of the relations between money and power seemed to us to give
way to worries centered around the relations between money and
(national, cultural, sexual) identity--worries that continue to
this day. Finally, the play of figuration and disfigurement and
the presence of bodies also appeared to us to have a nonnegligible
place in these productions. Thus, when it gives rise to artistic
work, even the immateriality of the stock-exchange trade and of
foreign exchanges (which have also become dematerialized) finds
itself enmeshed in a production line or manufacturing line that
gives body to it. This is perhaps the major lesson to be taken
away from this exhibition. Art gives body, even if this body is
not exactly an organic one.
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of the exhibition. Entrance to Le Plateau with, in the foreground,
Une direction, 2003. Stainless steel and artificial
hair. Varying dimensions. Courtesy of the artist and the
Nathalie Obadia Gallery, Paris.
In the background, part of the 2007 reconstitution of Le
Baiser de l’artiste (The artist’s kiss)
the ground, Sylvie Fleury, Untitled, 2008. Bronze.
40 x 50 x 11 cm. Courtesy of the Almine Rech Gallery, Paris/Brussels.
the wall: Matthieu Laurette,€ vs $ (Euros versus
Dollar), 2001-2008. Wall painting in progress (graphic
representing the Euro/Dollar exchange rate for the year
leading up to the day of completion). Varying dimensions.
Unique work. Courtesy of the artist, the Blow de la Barra
Gallery, and the Gaudel de Stampa Gallery, Paris.
On the wall: Thomas Hirschhorn, Swiss Made, 1999.
Cardboard, paper aluminum, felt, wood, plastic, and transparent
film. 230 x 50 x 5 cm. Private collection, Paris.
: Martin Argyroglo
right: Arnaud Labelle-Rojoux, Profitez-en . . . ,
2005. Writing in acrylic paint on colored paper. 80 x 62
cm. Pierre Cornette de Saint-Cyr Collection, Paris.
Center: Ouest-Lumière, Stock Exchange, 2008.
Mixed media. Varying dimensions. Courtesy of the Patricia
Dorfmann Gallery and Art & Flux, Paris.
: Martin Argyroglo
the foreground: Philippe Cazal, La magie du succès
(The magic of success), 1986. Six Cibachrome photographs.
Each one: 100 x 80 cm. Engraved brass plaque. 17.5 x 18.5
cm. Daniel Bosser Collection, Paris.
: Martin Argyroglo
the foreground: documentary display cases about the work
of Gilles Mahé. Mahé Collection, Paris/Saint
Briac, and private collection, Paris.
: Martin Argyroglo
Belongs to Everyone®, 1993. Backstage--Le Plateau,
Paris, 2008. Varying dimensions. MAMCO Collection, Geneva,
Benoît d’Aubert Collection, Paris, Claire Burrus
Philippe Thomas Estate.
: Martin Argyroglo
the ground: Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Untitled (Himmler,
Hate, Hole, Helms), 1990. Black and white offset printing
on red paper. Pile of sheets of paper. 71 x 60 x 56.5 cm.
Fonds National d’Art Contemporain Collection/CNAP.
Courtesy of Jennifer Flay, Paris.
On the wall: General Idea, Copyright Paintings,
1987. Courtesy of the Frédéric Giroux Gallery.
: Martin Argyroglo
Idea, Yen Boutique, 1989-1991. Installation: metal,
painting, textiles, offset printing, silkscreen printing,
ceramics, glass, brass, paper, enamel, plastic, nylon. 200
x 350 x 350 cm. Fonds National d’Art Contemporain
: Martin Argyroglo
to right on the back wall: Sigmar Polke, Sans titre
(Untitled), 1988. Banknote. 8.5 x 17 cm (20 x 39 cm
with frame). Private collection, Paris.
Zoe Leonard, One Hundred Dollars, 2000-2008. 100
one-dollar bills, thumbtacks. Each one: 5.6 x 6.5 cm. Courtesy
of the artist and the Yvon Lambert Gallery, Paris.
David Hammons, Money, 1989. Fabric, plastic, gold
paint, coins, paper. 121 cm. Private collection, Paris.
On the ground: Cady Noland, Eveready, 1992. Mixed
media. 30 x 48 x 33 cm. Private collection, Paris.
: Martin Argyroglo
Farrell, Money Money, 2000. Installation. Mixed
media. Nadia and Cyrille Candet Collection, Paris.
: Martin Argyroglo
Reena Spaulings, Money Painting (50 Euros), 2005.
Mixed media on canvas. 91 x 178 cm. Courtesy of the Chantal
Crousel Gallery, Paris.
On the ground: Gloria Friedmann, Nous sommes les antiquités
de demain (We are tomorrow’s antiques), 2003.
Printed carpet. 433 x 350 cm. Courtesy of the artist and
the serge le borgne Gallery, Paris.
On the wall: Gloria Friedmann, Tableau vivant: Money
Makes the World Go Round, 2005. Digital print. 50 x
100 cm. Courtesy of the artist and the serge le borgne Gallery,
: Martin Argyroglo