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Trade Show


  • Archive, Archive Exhibitions, Exhibition

  • January 29, 2005 - May 30, 2005
  • Galleries

Trade Show featured the works of eight artists and collectives who bring the world of business into art. In the 21st century, it is no surprise for visitors to contemporary art museums to find plenty of popular culture objects in works of art, a practice dating back to Marcel Duchamp’s “Readymades.” More recently, not only non-traditional art objects but also non-traditional art activities—business practices such as network marketing, advertising, and motivational speaking—have found their way into art spaces. Trade Show highlighted some of the most interesting and provocative of these practices.

Some artists in this exhibition brought the style and language of business into an art context. For example, Carey Young’s video Optimum Performance documents her 2003 intervention in the Whitechapel Gallery in London: a motivational lecture to an audience of gallery visitors using business jargon from the corporate world. Other artists in the exhibition entered into the world of daily commerce surreptitiously through their art: Brock Enright’s kidnappings-for-hire provoke discussions about spectacle and the media while The House of Diehl’s performance of Instant Couture produces high-end fashion out of spontaneous and democratic processes. Conrad Bakker’s pyramid marketing scheme pitches a functionless product with the straight face of scam marketeering. The sale of these commodities and services comes bundled with implicit (and sometimes hilariously blatant) critiques of the business paradigms they are modeled after, challenging media, our ideas of fashion, or consumer culture in general.

Other works in the exhibition included: The Art Experience by J.S.G. Boggs who designs, draws, and spends his own currency, not deceptive counterfeits but rather creative adaptations of U.S. bills; several pieces by General Idea including FILE Megazine, which was both a vehicle for taking control of their own media coverage, as well as a networking tool for a broader community of artists; Christine Hill’s The Volksboutique Care Package, a subscription-based service whose recipient receives a customized selection of items delivered in a jewel box case; and Corporate Sponsorship by Ingold Airlines by Res Ingold, a fictional company and art project that exists in the form of a wide variety of airline paraphernalia: from ads to baggage ID tags and packing tape festooned with his red logo. For Trade Show, Ingold Airlines participated as the exhibition’s corporate sponsor because, as Ingold points out, “the airline has been looking to expand its American clientele.”

Organized by Rebecca Uchill, an intern from the Williams College-Clark Art Institute Graduate Program in the History of Art, the exhibition was part of the continuing series of MASS MoCA exhibitions presented in collaboration with the Clark Art Institute in support of MASS MoCA and the Williams/Clark Graduate program in the History of Art. The Sterling & Francine Clark Art Institute has been placing interns from its graduate art program in the curatorial department at MASS MoCA since well before MASS MoCA opened. “Clark graduate students continue to organize some of our most thoughtful, quirky, and beautiful exhibitions: Rebecca’s exhibition joins a long and distinguished list. We enjoy this program immensely, as do our visitors, and we would once again like to thank the generosity of the Clark Art Institute, and particularly Michael Conforti, for sustaining this work,” said Joseph Thompson, director of MASS MoCA.

House of Diehl, Instant Couture and Brand New Me, 2005