Silly artist wants $10,000 for McDonald’s pickle on ceiling

Arbitrarily popular NFTs and stupid stunts like these are the price we pay to enjoy good art the rest of the time.

Pickle Matthew Griffin

New Zealanders are divided in their verdicts between ‘genius’ and ‘moronic’ as Auckland gallery exhibits fermented vegetable on ceiling.

Some people, including me, had assumed the era of exhausting art stunts had been swept aside and replaced with the new era of even more fatiguing, even more confusing, NFTs. But thankfully we haven’t been totally deprived of ridiculous, performative silliness in galleries across the world. We’re still being treated to the physically bizarre.

A bloke from Sydney, Australia, has thrown a pickle from a McDonald’s cheeseburger at a wall in a bid to stir up debate about what we deem to hold “value” in the art world today. It would be a nice gesture from artist Matthew Griffin, had it not been done a billion times before in different guises, culminating in the NFT bubble which quite literally answered that question with, ‘whatever the maniacs participating in the market decide it to be’.

Of course, the stunt sparked a flurry of unoriginal and expected responses on social media, which I’m not going to publicise on here because I’m not that kind of journalist. Besides, if you’re reading a whynow article you’re likely a bright person and can work out for yourself what kind of tweets Griffin’s ‘work’ solicited.

The piece calls to mind Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan’s infamous artwork titled Comedian – a ripening banana duct-taped to the gallery wall during Art Basel in Miami, in 2019, which sold for US$120,000. It was then plucked from the wall and eaten by the New York performance artist David Datuna.

Maurizio Cattelan Banana

Maurizio Cattelan’s ‘Comedian’ work at Art Basel 2019

Generating different responses to the work is part of the work’s joy, said Ryan Moore, the director of Fine Arts, Sydney, which represents Griffin. “A humorous response to the work is not invalid – it’s OK, because it is funny,” Moore said.

(They’re laughing at you).

Griffin’s work appeals to Moore because as well as using humour as a device, it follows in the traditions of contemporary art and questions “the way value and meaning is generated between people”.

The inevitable question of whether Pickle is “art” does not bother Moore. “Generally speaking, artists aren’t the ones deciding whether something is art is not – they are the ones who make and do things. Whether something is valuable and meaningful as artwork is the way that we collectively, as a society choose to use it or talk about it,” Moore said.

Matthew Griffin pickle

The pickle in question on the ceiling

“As much as this looks like a pickle attached to the ceiling – and there is no artifice there, that is exactly what it is – there is something in the encounter with that as a sculpture or a sculptural gesture. The pickle is stuck to the ceiling with its own sticky sauce and has shown no sign of decay, nor is it peeling off – “if you go to McDonald’s all around the world, you’ll see things stuck on the ceiling.”

The work carries a NZD$10,000 price tag, and will cost the buyer another NZD$4.44 for a cheeseburger. The institution, or collector who owns it, will be given instructions on how to recreate the art in their own space.

“It’s not about the virtuosity of the artist standing there in the gallery throwing it to the ceiling – how it gets there doesn’t matter, as long as someone takes it out of the burger and flicks it on to the ceiling,” Moore said. “The gesture is so pure, so joyful … that is what makes it so good.”

whynow takes a dim view of Moore’s words and does not share in his enthusiasm for his work.

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