So awesome, yet, so annoying. How did I not know of this? When it was going on? I was emailing with the Van Abbemuseum at the time about replicas of artworks, particularly their refabrications of Laszlo Moholy-Nagy’s Light Space Modulator and his Raum der Gegenwart. I’d just been working on an exhibition proposal myself for turning a gallery into a production site for sanctioned art replication. I was hanging with SUPERFLEX themselves last October after the Creative Time Summit, just weeks after the show closed. I was knee-deep in museums and artists and copyright as I released my edition with 20×200.com. And yet I only find out about FREE SOL LEWITT this morning from Half Letter Press’s tweet?? Obviously, I bought the print version of the catalogue before the download for the free pdf version was complete. So I am clearly doing something wrong to have missed this.
In 2010 the Danish artist collective SUPERFLEX curated an exhibition at the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, “In Between Minimalisms,” that included a work of their own. [Which was in turn curated by curator-turned-lawyer Daniel McClean] FREE SOL LEWITT is a machine, a small-scale factory set up inside the museum, which created exact replicas of a work in the collection, Sol Lewitt’s Untitled (Wall Structure) (1972). The replicas, certified as new works by SUPERFLEX, were then given away to the public.
Some of the details of this production remain unclear, like how many were made. I gather that by working four hours/day, the aluminum cutter, welder, sander, and painter were able to produce 1-2 FREE SOL LEWITTs per week during the 20-week run of the show. Five were “almost finished” within the ten day interval between the opening of the show and the symposium held at the museum on the question, “Who Owns the Artwork?”.
Or what happened to them. The FREE SOL LEWITTs were awarded by lottery to museum visitors who expressed interest in filling out a form. Except for the cheery faces of the lucky recipients of a few structures, who were photographed loading the almost comically large, unwieldy 2×3.5-meter work, unprotected, into rental trailers and vans, I can’t find any news of where or how the SUPERFLEX pieces are being put to use.
SUPERFLEX chose to replicate Lewitt’s work because his pioneering ideas of conceptualism, seriality, and art objecthood resonated with the collective’s own position toward copyright, exchange, and control.
In both essays and interviews in the catalogue, they challenged museums to make countering the constraints of copyright an integral part of their institutional missions. They spoke of the “artistic commonwealth” in which artists borrow and copy freely from each other, and artists and their estates and artists’ rights agencies do not shut down each others’ creative processes by the invocation of copyright. The project’s shape was inspired by Lewitt’s statement in 1973 that “ideas once expressed become the common property of all” and that “we artists, I believe are part of a single community sharing a common language.”
And then I laughed. Because though it’s clear Richard Prince is a citizen of the Artistic Commonwealth, it’s equally obvious that the United States is not a member.
SUPERFLEX/ FREE SOL LEWITT, April – Sept. 2010 [vanabbemuseum.nl]
Buy the FREE SOL LEWITT catalogue, $25 at Half Letter Press [halfletterpress.com]