ed phillips on Sun, 2 Apr 2006 09:24:00 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Bank Vaults and Museums: securing your cultural capital

On my lunch break I wandered into our local cultural institution.
I hastily cruised through yet another show on surrealism and
photography that was well curated and thought out. It communicated
with confidence a canonical selection of trippy photos and pointlessly
collected ready-mades.

It was a quick hit glimpse by sheer happenstance into Museum, Inc. I
actually purchased the prickly pear pamphlet of the same name from the
book shop on my way out, and the seething with resentment way too hip
to be working service and too busy deciding where to put new books art
historian gave me the snottiest parody of efficiency I've ever
received with a purchase anywhere.

That experience of being processed at the counter with machine like
efficiency in a parody of impersonal form matched so perfectly with the
theme of the pamphlet and with my experience in the show. For all her
tribal signs of rebellion, the tats, the goth wear, the probable
dissertation on peasant rebellion poster art, she sits at the bottom
of a corporate hierarchy that metes out excrescences of cultural
capital in the form of infinitely reproducible but somehow still
scarce art-notes. As a worker in one of these institutions there must
be one too many ass to kiss just to wangle a meal, one too many rule
to follow. A tough job for someone who one expects at their interview
expresed their love of ART. Parody is the only form of rebellion left
in Culture, Inc. You get to rebel and keep your day job.

Further up the hierarchy in less than self conscious parody was what
was surely a curator in the show with a vip in slick business suit
discussing the business side of the show, the relationships with
collectors and the discussion of collectibles and their relative
worth. What timing that I was there for their discussion of Man Ray's
The Gift. Whenever I look at any of these ready-mades I always think
of Baruchello's dialogue with Duchamp and how B hardly even wanted to
see any of these read-mades in replica form or first fashioning. The
idea or a photos is enough. In a show of photos, photos are not
enough, and the suit knew and confirmed that SFMOMA's the gift is a
1962 series. extremely scarce indeed and worth something to
someone. call it a market. The seriousness around the parody is
visible at this level in the hierarchy. The parody is curated and
collected and through imprimatur cultural capital is created.

The game is a tricky one and is constantly falling apart.
Museum, Inc. the prickly pear pamphlet
is exactly about this late date of corporate mall art
institutions, and about how the game was always such.

Why stick some tacks on an old Iron yourself when you can own a
certified ready-made? What are in the investments in culture that make
an iron with tacks canonical? Why even bother to notice any of this?

I really enjoyed the whole connoissuer schtick played by the suit
around an old iron with tacks; not a whif of humor to his
conversation or his game. No sense of irony about "the gift."
nor about money or cultural capital.

You too can own the gift in a special limited release edition at near
prickly pear pamphlet prices:

Following is a xpost of a recent article from that lovely
institution from which we learn about other works of art such as third
world cities....

It is a pity that SFMOMA did not purchase and put one of these in its sho=


On sale through London's David Risley Gallery at the moment is an
iconic piece of modern art: Man Ray's Le Cadeau ("The Gift"),
available for a whisper under a grand (=A3999) thanks to its
considerable edition size of 5,000.

The Gift
Man Ray's Le Cadeau

The Gift is an early readymade created by Man Ray during his Dada
period in 1921 as a present for composer Erik Satie. It consists of a
clothes iron with tacks stuck to the bottom. Typical of the perverse,
subversive inclinations of the Dada movement, it encapsulates a dual
paradox since the functions of tacks and iron cancel each other out.

The piece was so popular - such a brilliant example of the surreal,
useless object - that Man Ray kept remaking it throughout his career,
until finally he decided to have it editioned in 1974, shortly before
his death.

Five thousand were then made, each is numbered and signed, and The
Gift is now pretty much a required presence in any major public modern
art collection, including the Tate's.

"It's awesome," says gallery owner David Risley. "It's unbelievable
that you can own something like that - one of the most important
pieces of 20th-century sculpture by one of the century's most
important artists.

"It's amazing you can have it in your house: you think of it as being
a museum piece."

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