Elmgreen & Dragset, The Collectors (2009). Danish and Nordic Pavilions – 53rd Venice Biennale
Photo by Anders Sune Berg
While the duo’s ideas might seem simple, the effects are powerful. The installation of the stand in a deserted Grand Palais radically modifies the relationship to space. Regulars at the FIAC are well aware of the number of galleries these venues can hold. They know the Perrotin booth is quite walled in by other stands. And yet this Saturday, 24th September we had trouble imagining how the others might fit in at all, with Elmgreen & Dragset’s construction seeming to swallow up the space. Bizarrely when you stepped back, the effect was reversed. This vast stand suddenly seemed as tiny as the model version on display in the heart of the stand. All very mise-en-abyme...
“Most people walk through exhibitions like sleepwalkers. It's a challenge for artists to propose an intriguing experience that awakes them from their state of torpor.” Elmgreen & Dragset
Elmgreen & Dragset have long mastered the elaboration of stories and staged scenes that blur the boundaries between reality and fiction, forcing us to reconsider the truth. “By playing with the environment of our exhibitions, we’re looking to confuse the visitor’s experience. How should they react? Are they still in an exhibition? Most people walk through exhibitions like they’re sleepwalking. It’s a challenge for artists to offer an experience that really intrigues and brings them out of their torpor,” they explained to us during a visit to their Berlin studio. September 24th was a success. The spectators were suddenly filled with doubt: could they actually enter the installation? (Yes) Could collectors buy the works on show? (Yes, but only if they lent them back to Perrotin for the FIAC in order to produce the exact same stand). “The only real constraint we imposed on Emmanuel Perrotin was that all the works be in shades of black and white,” confide the duo. The effect was most arresting. The white space of the stand seemed to metamorphose into a 3D painting within which the visitor evolves and becomes one of the protagonists.
“It would be interesting to imagine the stand standing here until the FIAC opening, and to watch the whole fair being erigated around it.” Elmgreen & Dragset