Monday, November 07, 2005

Artist of the Week (11/07/05)

Recent events have made the Artist of the Week this time an obvious choice. I first disovered the work of Eric Doeringer outside the Armory Show a few years ago. Having spent several hours and at least three beers' worth of entrance fee money drooling over work so far above my art-buying budget my head was spinning, I was thoroughly delighted to stumble upon Eric's make-shift booth, where he stood in the cold flogging his $40 "bootleg" versions of the well-known work selling across the street for tens of thousands or more. Believing profoundly that the sincerest form of art appreciation is writing a check, I bought a copy of the Dunham bookleg you see to the right.

I didn't really know what to make of this cheeky entrepreneur at the time, but there was a certain joy about his project/performance, a pitch-perfect parody of the commerce and iconography being taken so very seriously across the street---an amusing antedote to the excess the Armory Show can symbolize at times. Don't get me wrong (especially if you're on the selection committee), I love art fairs and believe in selling work, but Doeringer's project helped remind me that it's always a good idea to step back on occassion to make sure you're still having fun. Here's an installation shot from one of his booths:


Image from artist's website.

In addtion to the bootleg series, Eric's work includes "ID cards for fictional museums," "Hand Embroidered "Polo" Shirts," and my personal favorite, the Mole Tattoos:

The Mole Tattoos are replicas of my moles. A collector may choose any mole on my body, and I tattoo a copy in the identical location on his or her body. In addition to the tattoo, each collector receives a signed Polaroid of the original mole.

Eric's exhibition history with his varied projects is as earnest as any emerging artist at his stage of his career, with exhibitions coming up in Los Angeles and Zurich, to name a few, but his "Bootlegs" are what he's best known for. And it's his "Bootleg" peformances that led to a controversy this past weekend. From James Wagner's blog:

I still can't quite get my mind around this story, although I first heard the particulars much earlier today: It's essentially the tale of an owner of an art gallery asking the police to get rid of an artist who was selling his work on the sidewalk a few doors down from his business. [...]

Apparently Mike Weiss, who runs his eponymic gallery on 24th Street, where our young artist has usually set up his shop, had complained about [what I would describe as the performance element of] Doeringer's art the weekend before this and had threatened to call the police if he returned the following Saturday. According to Doeringer, Weiss told him he didn't like him selling work outside, "because it attracts people." Doeringer says he thought at first Weiss was joking. Eventually he realized that he meant that Doeringer's presence would attract other artists selling their work there as well. Weiss complained about his high rent and how the artist was making it difficult for him to sell art.

In spite of the pressure, Doeringer was certain he was within his rights in what he was doing and so he returned this weekend. At some point in the afternoon on Saturday he was approached by the police, who told him they were responding to a 311 complaint. They informed him he would have to leave [later he learned that he only had to file some paperwork and register as a vendor, collecting sales tax, in order to be legitimate].

He packed up his work and confronted Mr. Weiss, who admitted he had called the police. He said that he didn't like "seeing people walking around with tiny paintings," while he was paying high rent for his gallery and, "trying to sell $30,000 paintings."

I'm in the unusual position of being able to feel for both parties in this dispute, but, although I've known Mike for years, I think he might have over-reacted here. A series of conversations with Eric, patiently getting him to see the gallery's point of view, would surely have been better than calling the police. Having said that, coming from our old location where a very violent version of stick ball was frequently played with our gallery's front door used as home plate, I get that it's frustrating to think any element in your street is potentially directing traffic away from you. I'm not exactly sure that Eric wouldn't be a good element to have on your street, given that he's clearly invested in (even if poking fun at) the contemporary dialog, but I can see where Mike is coming from.

Bottom line seems to be Eric's rights (once he gets the permit) trump Mike's concerns. (And to put it more succinctly: it's a very competitive business we've chosen. If we can't beat out a street performer selling knock-offs, what chance do we stand against our fellow gallerists?) Here's another one of Eric's "re-creations":

Eric Doeringer, "assume vivid astro focus (aka Eli Sudbrock)," Ink Jet Print, 10 x 8.255", 2004
This piece was created by collaging together different elements from original avaf pieces. Image from
artist's website.
For more on the story, see Barry Hoggard's blog too.

4 Comments:

Blogger t.h. perranti said...

I agree with you, in that each side has rights. But at the end of the day, I'd side with the gallery, and purely from the subjective vantage point that we've all seen this "boot-leg" gambit before (Richard Pettibone, Sherrie Levine), it wasn't very interesting the first time around, and now it just looks like a tiresome bid for attention. MIke Weiss calling the cops on Eric is the best thing that ever happened to him. Your 15 minutes just started Eric, get going.....

11/07/2005 10:05:00 PM  
Anonymous if beauty is our reality said...

Well, he covers some interesting intersections that smidgine my own. Eric's knock-offs probably are not in the milieu of other knock-offs. They represent a clear cadence that confidently devours; are synergistic and empowering
-be they an odd but honest practice of today?

11/08/2005 08:35:00 AM  
Anonymous Aaron said...

I love his Chuck Close bootleg. I'm pretty sure that I'd enjoy owning it even more than a real Chuck Close.

I do sympathize with the gallery owner, but as a middleman, perhaps he should be a bit more attuned to disruptive influences in the market and try to capitalize on them, rather than stifle them.

As a distributor, you are always at risk that one of the manufacturers in your market is going to go straight to the consumer, rather than go through you.

11/08/2005 11:18:00 AM  
Blogger Ron Diorio said...

Might have been more opportune to just to keep Eric outside drawing traffic and then start selling his small paintings inside ... at a Chelsea price, of course.

11/08/2005 11:29:00 AM  

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