Preferred Stock

December 18th, 2014

Allergan+Actavis.  AT&T+DirecTV.  Comcast+Time Warner.  Facebook+WhatsApp.  Halliburton+Baker Hughes.  Tyson+Hillshire.  2014 has been a year of mega mergers, some still in the works.  Global deal-making in 2014 has topped the $3 trillion mark (NYT), making these mergers worth more than the GDP of any country except the U.S., China, Japan, and Germany.

With an invisible finger on the pulse of this capitalist frenzy is Michael Wang, who brings another public offering of his Rivals project, up now at Andrea Rosen Gallery, in cooperation with Foxy Production.


Michael Wang, “Rivals,” 2014

Viewers will find powder-coated aluminum shelves housing nail polish, sneakers, pain relievers, bottled water, cigarettes, and cryptic certificates encased under glass.


Michael Wang, “Rivals,” 2014

Each object on the “material horizon” of shelves represents a commonplace good produced by a multinational corporation, and each shelf pairs this good with its counterpart rival.  Hence, we have Nike versus Adidas, Tylenol versus Advil.


Material Horizon: Michael Wang, “Rivals,” 2014

When a collector invests in Rivals (or in Michael Wang), according to the press release, “The sale of the artwork funds an equal investment in each rival firm as the artist is paid for the work in common stock to become a one millionth of one percent owner of both companies, thereby rendering him a fractional owner of what the artist considers a conceptual merger.”

Michael (with the gallery and collector) simultaneously invests in the corporation and its rival, becoming a shareholder in the conceptually merged firm, e.g. “PFEJNJ:” Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson.  The symmetrical transaction begins to level the asymmetry that fosters competition.  For a beautifully designed explanation, see Michael’s PowerPoint:

Because the “conceptual merger” is central here, the collector’s intervention is required before the artwork begins to exist. The collector is the progenitor who brings life to the artwork.  Once collected, it follows that the value will increase for the artwork and the rival corporations.  Lesson: life begins at valuation.  Would capitalism agree?  (And if things go as well as they can in the art world, the value of the artwork will increase faster than the value of the shares!)



By focusing on physical products, Rivals taps into the history and discourse of the Readymade, which took commodities out of circulation and recontextualized them in art institutions.  Rivals does all of that, but then dematerializes the commodities into “pure” value.  Which raises a question: how soon can Rivals take on services instead of goods?  JPMorgan versus Goldman Sachs?   AmEx versus Visa?  Grindr versus Pinterest? ;)


Accidental Rivals in Greer Lankton, “LOVE ME” at Participant, Inc.


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Last Address

December 1st, 2014

Today is World AIDS Day, formerly known as Day Without Art.  In honor of this occasion, here is Last Address (2010), Ira Sachs‘ poignant and moving short film tribute to NYC artists who who died of AIDS-related causes.

Last Address from Ira Sachs on Vimeo.

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Reign Room

November 23rd, 2014

Thomas Houseago’s Moun Room is up now at Hauser & Wirth.  Low-grade in materials, the work is crafted in plaster, yet it is a navigable structure that organizes space.  Thus, Moun Room teeters between sculpture and architecture.


Thomas Houseago, “Moun Room” at Hauser & Wirth, 2014

Comprising concentric rectangles, Moun Room is 37 feet by 45 feet wide and 12 feet tall at the center. Erected on plywood substrate and joined by rebar, the walls of Moun Room combine TUF-CAL plaster mixed with hemp. The interior surfaces appear to be sanded down, and in many places, they crack and crumple as a result of the plaster process. When considering these surfaces over the ribbed exteriors, a visitor might think of skin and bones. Pausing to gaze through its portholes and oculi could evoke eyes – or any other holes of the body. But the presence of any literal “figure” ends when Moun Room is empty of viewers.


Thomas Houseago, “Moun Room” at Hauser & Wirth, 2014



Thomas Houseago, “Moun Room” at Hauser & Wirth, 2014

And to leave behind his mythical figures is a major departure for Houseago. His grotesque, hulking figures brought him a lot of attention, including several shows at the other Hauser & Wirth locations. What stands in place of these figures looks like a provisional temple. The holes cut into the walls look like moon diagrams, and it’s tempting to imagine this temple outdoors, where sunbeams would pipe through the space. It feels pagan. This is another aspect that dangles Moun Room between sculpture and architecture.


Thomas Houseago, “Moun Room” at Hauser & Wirth, 2014


Thomas Houseago, “Moun Room” at Hauser & Wirth, 2014

1900 years ago, Hadrian rebuilt Jerusalem as a pagan city. He installed cultic statues on the Temple Mount and built there a temple to the Roman god Jupiter. His pagan sites in Jerusalem survived, despite the tidal shifts of Constantine and Julian. But over the centuries, the cultic and pagan shrines on the Temple Mount crumbled. The Temple Mount changed hands from Jewish, Christian, and Muslim control. Fast forward to today: it’s a lethally contested powder keg for both prayer and violence, at which worship and policing are mutually exclusive.

Regarding Jerusalam: “When you bring the religious dimension, it absolutizes the conflict — you can divide land, you can divide security, but the sacred is indivisible,” says a philosophy scholar in a recent New York Times article. In the absolutist context of religion, the existential “either-or” joins the formal (and facile) binaries of “negative and positive, solid and void” evident in Moun Room.


Thomas Houseago, “Moun Room” at Hauser & Wirth, 2014

Moun Room is not explicitly religious, or really even sacred, but it is a high-value structure in a rarefied commercial space – a space that less than a decade ago was a gay roller disco nightclub. Whether sculpture or architecture, full of visitors or empty, Moun Room reminds us of the high stakes and changing faces of The Sacred.

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