Neon-feathers and money

"Let's go to a party!'  When a good friend of mine Muriel (President of OPUS) asked persuasively as to convince me on a evening when I already felt too fatigued with school work and under heavy obligation of work for the next day.  Little did I know when she said "a party", she meant every word of it.  Not only was there a stunning party after the reception but the real party started long before Russian Tea Room opened for business that night for the after-party.  The party animals were already present when I arrived at Galerie Perrotin for its inaugural opening in New York on Madison Avenue.  It felt like walking into a crazy and bizarre wild-bears zoo.  As if I had completely lost my mind, I couldn't believe that I was surrounded by life-size bears wearing neon-color feather coats laying around and standing with their playful poses and childish expressions, some staring at me right in the face.  Like a sweet dream that had gone awry, I tapped my foot on the floor to make sure that wasn't hallucinating from lack of sleep but was actually seeing what I was seeing.

Gallery owner Emmanuel Perrotin already has two galleries, one in Paris and one in HongKong before he decided to open this one in New York.  While having opened his first gallery at the age of twenty-one, he has been known to go all out for his artists.  Once he secured a live leopard for artist Paola Pivi's performance at the Kunsthalle Basel in 2007, in which the large feline was let free to walk around a room filled with neatly stacked cups of cappuccino.  It was perhaps also for this effect of inconceivable spectacle that Pivi was chosen to be the artist for his inaugural gallery reception in New York.  Beyond its elaborate visual spectacle, Pivi's works in the gallery were also thought-provoking in the sense that they made you reassess your every-day reality. 

Installation View
Paola Pivi "Ok, you are better than me, so what?"
Galerie Perrotin, New York, 18 September - 26 October 2013
Photo: Guillaume Ziccarelli
Courtesy Galerie Perrotin
What was most curious about these bears was that despite their life-scale and animated expressions, they wore coats of feathers.  Normally associated with plumage on bodies of birds that conjure up ideas of flightiness and weightlessness, the corporal mass of these creatures in no way suggested that they were going to take flight to anywhere if at all.  This strong contrast between lightness and heaviness was a prominent suggestion that the artists was playing a trick on conventional expectations.  However, it was not done entirely for the reason of its shock-value but also to challenge our perceptions for the conceivable versus the inconceivable.  While the colors of the feathers looked entirely synthetic, meaning that these neon colors such as bright pink, blue, orange and lime-green do not exist in biological nature of any animal but could only be the result of some chemical lab-work. 

This combination of man-made versus nature was an interesting presentation of phenomena in our every-day lives.  Whether we like to accept it or not, from the fruits and vegetables we consume to the city parks we all enjoy, to the clothes we wear and the nature-walks we embark, all of which contain elements of human intervention of nature.  In other words, these feather-wearing bears might have looked shocking at first because we wouldn't necessarily associate bears to be like birds, only except maybe in a sic-fi movie then we'd probably have a laugh at them.  Yet, with the prevalence of genetic engineering and maybe some day bears will have feathers and take flight, who knows?  While on the subject of our possible future, Pivi injected a sense of humor with the presentation of these creatures to lighten it up a bit.  With titles like "I never danced before", "Sometimes I have to stand for my safety", "Don't change my name please", "It's not fair", these bears seemed to speak to us like humans.  Perhaps it was this combination of beast and human playfulness that made these creatures so endearing and cuddly. 

“Money machine (true blue, baby I love you)” 2013
Stainless steel, mixed materials, money
243,84 x 211 x 160,5 cm, 96 x 83 1/16 x 63 1/4 inches
Photo: Guillaume Ziccarelli
Courtesy Galerie Perrotin
Speaking of humor "Money machine (true blue, baby I love you)" was there to entice reception-attendees as well to toy with the notion of desire and greed that we all face and battle from time to time in our lives.  Pivi installed a money machine that spitted out bills and coins intermittently and rather unexpectedly, at times alarmed a few to keep at a safe distance in case of injury but mostly amused them with its clumsy mechanism and un-controllability.  This brilliant installation also tested for how far would you go to collect free money.  For the most part, people kept on their best behavior and almost no one actually waited after it to pick up the money it spitted out to the floor (at least I saw no one during the time I was there).  Then again, its cheeky way of testing desire and greed was clever and playful enough to have been mistaken for an entertainment piece.  Meanwhile as the machine's sturdy presence claimed its territory, people scatted around and pondered the appropriate code of public conduct.  Apart from this social-behavioral commentary that I pointed out, this installation was in fact quite appropriate for the inaugural reception.  The building of which Galerie Perrotin occupies currently was once the headquarter of Bank of New York when it was built in 1932.  Thus, vicariously Pivi's money machine was also a homage to the building's history.


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