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reviews pawnshop
PawnshoP
e-flux, new York
1 october – 29 februarY
The pawnshop is a cruel form of loaning money that has existed since Bengala pawned an acoustic guitar with their marriage certificate in gold
ancient Greece and the Roman Empire, one that the poor and desperate writing printed on its body. More traditional two-dimensional works were
regularly fall prey to in the real world. At e-flux’s headquarters in the harder to come by, but a drawing of a ram, in ink on sheet-music paper,
increasingly relevant gallery district of the Lower East Side in Manhattan, by Keren Cytter, was a tempting find. Adding another level of intrigue, in
invited artists were asked to loan work to this exhibition-cum-shop. Unlike many cases it was hard to tell what was art and what was a regular object.
dealings in a real pawnshop, each artist received the same small sum of The vintage boom box with a stack of tapes on the floor next to it including
$99.99, so the loan was not based on the value of the work. For the first 30 Tone-Lōc’s Lōc-ed After Dark (1989) seemed to make an ironic statement,
days of the loan, the work was on display but not for sale. Within that time but it was just there to entertain staffers. Additional services available at
period, the artists had to repay the loan plus interest of $22 or the work Pawnshop were fax and Xerox copies, Internet access, phonecards, cheque
would be offered for sale at its full value. After the opening day, any artist cashing and passport photos.
could walk in and present something for consideration. With Pawnshop, organisers Julieta Aranda, Liz Linden and Anton
In a real pawnshop, if you’re a day late with your loan, you don’t Vidokle have set up a project that is in direct opposition to the current
get your item back. It’s unclear whether e-flux’s establishment was run as state of the art market, with its greed and high prices, and the questionable
strictly. The ultimate twist to this convoluted temporary grant is that the long-term value of untested artists. Pawnshop is a real anomaly, in that
loan amount would be donated to charity – the recipient being the worthy any profit being made is given away in an exercise of philanthropy. It’s rare
Doctors Without Borders organisation. that contemporary art gives back to the real world, and for that the project
The shop itself was utterly convincing, with glass vitrines, pegboard should be lauded. And in case you thought the artists weren’t getting
displays, a cash register, phoney security cameras and believable signage. anything out of the deal, their contributions are tax deductible. Chris Bors
The majority of people who came in off the street were looking to pawn real
goods, disappointed and a bit confused by the actual intent of the enterprise.
A range of items, from art objects like Christoph Keller’s Coupon for one
time changing the weather in NYC to Mike Smith’s functional 35mm camera
were on view. In the storefront’s window, husband and wife collaborators Pawnshop, 2007 (installation view). photo: carlos Motta
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