Galleries Recognize the Art of the Proposal

NEW YORK—Galleries and artists continue to push the envelope, devising ever clever ways to develop and present contemporary art exhibits. In some instances the pitch letter or proposal made to the gallery owner literally becomes a part of the show.

On May 1, Jack Shainman’s preparators sent him a memo outlining their plans for a “soft takeover” of the gallery to curate “HiJack!” the exhibit currently on view at Jack Shainman Gallery. The memo notes that the exhibit will include rarely seen works by artists represented by the gallery as well as other artists of the art handlers’ choosing.

The correspondence further proclaims, “Our agenda includes plans to issue an essay that contextualizes the selected artworks within the theoretical discourse that surrounds global labor conditions.” The memo also said an artist labor library will be installed across from Shainman’s office and his office door will be removed for the duration of the exhibit in an effort to break down the institutional hierarchy of the gallery. “Please do not be alarmed,” it states. “We strive for camaraderie as we collapse the divisions of labor. This is our revolt.”

Visitors to “HiJack” will find that the memo drafted by Luke Turner, chief preparator at Jack Shainman Gallery, and his team, is distributed at the exhibit, where it serves as the press release. (Or perhaps as the show developed, the idea of such a memo with information sufficient to serve as the release was conceived as yet another artifice of the exhibit.)

The proposal-centered approach to curating an exhibit resembles that of Peter Liversidge, a British artist with Sean Kelly Gallery. According the his gallery bio: “For the past decade, all of his work has started with the conceptually-based practice of creating proposals for performances and artworks across a wide expanse of mediums.” And then the proposals are incorporated into the exhibit. “Liversidge usually creates the proposals within a self-imposed timeline that is related to a forthcoming exhibition or project; many are site-specific. The resultant exhibition includes the manifestation of some of the ideas as well as the framed proposals, both realized and unrealized.”

Liversidge pitched an installation of “wooden mail objects” for the Sean Kelly booth at the Armory Show earlier this year. View the memo and images of the work here and here.

At Jack Shainman, “HiJack” (note the double entendre) includes work by Odili Donald Odita, Tyler Rowland and Malick Sidibe, among others, and is on view from Aug. 2 to Sept. 1, 2012. Tomorrow is the last day.

All photos © Arts Observer

Installation view of the “art labor library” installed outside Jack Shainman’s office.

“The Floor Scrapers,” 2006-2012 ongoing (painted floor boards, red oak, gold paint) by Tyler Rowland.

“7 negers van scottsboro,” 1932 (poster) artist unknown.

“Regardez Moi,” 1962/2008 (gelatin silver print) by Malick Sidibe.

“The Stonebreakers (All the Objected Needed to Install a Work of Art),” 2004-06 (trash from job site), part 1 of 6 of The Realist Manifesto series, by Tyler Rowland.

Detail of “The Stonebreakers” by Tyler Rowland.

“Kaleidoscope,” 2012 (glass panel and platform elevations (inkjet on Mylar) of the 20th Avenue subway station, D line), a public artwork commissioned by New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority by Odili Donald Odita.

Post Your Thoughts