Marilyn Schneider: V.V.V.V.V.I.P.

Art fairs are a transient space for commercially motivated consumption. The material-semiotic messages transmitted by Marilyn Schneider’s sculptures and paintings communicate a complex interrelationship between architecture, the designed object, the art object, the environment and its inhabitants: actants that complete a circular capitalist narrative. This artwork, like the art fair environment, is a venue for experience: not just the framework through which art is experienced, but the framework is revealed as art, in and of itself.

Marilyn’s work is, in this sense, paradisciplinary: situated vividly in relation to its forms of production, drawing attention to textural surfaces and architectural forms by reconstructing them with imitative materials that highlight their artifice. These reconstructions, isolated in the gallery space, demonstrate how our dominant cultural fantasies are deceptively integrated as part of a continuous lifescaping project, into seemingly benign architectures.

The Socialisation of Luxuries is a pencil drawing of Georg Jenson ‘Infinity’ cufflinks. Their enlarged size draws attention to their sculptural quality and highlights the culture and clientele that art fairs attract – being a luxury men’s accessory it points towards male power, dominance and wealth.

Marilyn uses architecture and material as a metaphor for our social conditioning, drawing links between production and consumption through a coded visual language. Beyond Product is a partition stud wall constructed from lightweight plywood and MDF, which indicates the temporal manufacturing of the art fair’s pop up and pack down culture. The wall’s façade presents a painting of Jonathan Anderson’s exhibit for the luxury fashion brand Loewe in Art Basel Miami 2015[1].

Although Anderson did include established contemporary artists in his exhibit, the display acted as a backdrop for the staging of V.I.P. parties and events. By positioning themselves in an art fair setting, Loewe were able to encourage shoppers to associate the brand with art of high culture.

In an art fair context, high end luxury labels sit alongside mega galleries such as Gagosian and David Zwirner, indicating that big name artists have equal brand recognition and that their artworks are commodities which are collected to reflect economic status. A good example of this conspicuous consumption is when Kanye West gifted his wife Kim Kardashian a Hermès Birkin bag painted by George Condo for Christmas.

The wall behind the sculpture (Beyond Product) is clad with Microsoft Excel formulas that hint at the behind-the-scenes labour that underlies the staging of experiences and orchestrated events. Mega art fairs, blockbuster exhibitions and Biennales, along with their long list of public programs have become feats of administration rather than art. This subtle nod makes visible the inner-workings of the amorphous capitalist machine churning out art as a global luxury experience in the 21st century.

The art fair lounge presents the perfect metaphor for the economic shift towards a broadened cultural elite who value access, experience and consumption over ownership and acquisition. Where once social status was defined by one’s property, (what one bought at the art fair) it can now defined by one’s access to and participation in the fair’s V.I.P. lounges and associated parties. Rented luxury, temporal luxury: these are the new points of access to the global capitalist dream, placing new emphasis on the materiality of experience.

The objects’ materials, tones and textures communicate familiar yet abstract forms, allowing us to consider their social positioning and their communicative effects: the status attached to access – not just of luxury items but luxury environments – articulates a seamless integration of art with advertising, entertainment, fashion and design.

These objects at once reflect a vapid culture of generic luxury, whilst ironically creating that very aspirational allusion to the culture being critiqued. By documenting and presenting these simple elements as art, Marilyn abstracts the forms and aesthetics of art fairs and re-presents them as artworks, creating a witty irony: the artworks themselves are something to be desired, they create consumerist aspirations in the viewer even though at the same time she is deconstructing the same luxury economy that fuels the generic aesthetic that is antithetical to the production of art.

Essay written by Roslyn Helper

[1] Jonathan Anderson is the Creative Director for the Spanish fashion house Loewe.

Courtesy of FAKE estate ARI. 

From the exhibition :  V.V.V.V.V.I.P. by Marilyn Schneider. (February 2016)