Documentation from The Collectors, Nordic and Danish Pavilions, 53rd Venice Biennale, 2009, PPT projection and collection of works commissioned by Elmgreen & Dragset from artists and writers for the "Bagalogue" project, courtesy of the artists and Victoria Miro Gallery, London, photo: Anders Sune Berg
Elmgreen & Dragset
The reflexive works created by the Scandinavian artists Elmgreen & Dragset focus on the art world itself - on its mechanisms of power and on the functioning of the art market. This exhibition features documentation of a project presented by the two at the 53rd Venice Biennale (2009), which took place in the shadow of the global economic crisis. Elmgreen & Dragset offered a parodic take on collecting, and transformed the adjacent Danish and Nordic Pavilions into the collectors' homes: the house of a troubled family, and that of an eccentric collector. Visitors to the Danish Pavilion were greeted by a "For Sale" sign; tours of the house were offered by an energetic real-estate agent, who presented it as a desirable property. The agent catered to the visitors' voyeuristic impulse by providing bits of gossip about the dramas plaguing the owners' family. The artists essentially took on the role of curators, populating the two "houses" with their own works and those of 23 other artists and designers. Works by leading international artists were displayed alongside an insect collection, Polynesian sculptures, furniture and design items and a stunning collection of ornamental chinaware. The result recalled museums, which were founded in the early 20th century to display private collections and which combine artworks with "exotic" furniture and design items. The home of the mysterious neighbor in the Nordic Pavilion - a hedonistic bachelor known as "Mr. B" - was designed as a characteristically modern "open space." His collections are filled with homoerotic artworks, and include, among other things, a collection of his former lovers' bathing suits. The open space alludes to a lack of boundaries, ostentatious behavior and exhibitionism, and exposes the details of the owner's private life for all to see. The price paid for this decadent lifestyle is revealed as one exits the house and discovers Mr. B's body floating in the swimming pool - in the aftermath of a suicidal act or perhaps a murder. By means of these fictional biographies, Almgreen & Dragset attempt to analyze the psychological motives underlying the urge to collect, and to decipher the "gene" responsible for the desire to possess. It seems as if the ostentatious, fashionable mannerisms characteristic of contemporary collectors represent, for these artists, a form of gluttony and spiritual weakness which inevitably lead to decline.
Michael Elmgreen born in Copenhagen, 1961; Ingar Dragset born in Trondheim, Norway, 1968. Collaborating since 1995; they live and work in London and Berlin