GALA Committee X Primary Information

Prime Time Contemporary Art: exhibition/auction catalogue for the GALA Committee’s project, In The Name Of The Place, just published in facsimile edition by Primary Information

An amazing catalogue of an incredible project is now available. Primary Information has just released Prime Time Contemporary Art: Art by the GALA Committee As Seen on Melrose Place. It is a facsimile edition of the original MOCA exhibition catalogue, which was formatted as—and served as—an auction catalogue for a real world benefit auction that, in elegant form, was incorporated into the TV series itself.

GALA Committee was formed by Mel Chin and Helen Nagge, to realize In The Name of The Place, a collaborative project by artists and art students to crate artworks that were surreptitiously used as props during two seasons of Melrose Place, the Beverly Hills 90210 spinoff created by Aaron Spelling.

The project originated when MOCA invited Chin to do a show. Melrose Place producers, writers, and actors were aware of the project, and eventually wrote the benefit auction into an episode of the fifth season. The TV show didn’t pay artists anything. In The Name was funded by MOCA, a couple of foundations, and, indirectly, by the universities where the GALA Committee members taught and studied.

Lot 11: RU-486 Quilt with chemical formula for an abortion drug, used by a pregnant character on Melrose Place (the quilt, not the drug)

The artworks and objects addressed controversial, even taboo subjects for broadcast television: HIV-AIDS, abortion, domestic terrorism, the (first) Gulf War. A lot of the work struggles to make it past a prop and a logline—sheets printed with unfurled condoms, a quilt embroidered with the chemical formula of an abortion drug—but a few objects stand out. A Barbara Kruger-esque picture comparing re-runs to a virus; a virus sculpture made from a cathode ray tube; and a painting which feels like Ross Bleckner was watching the invasion of Iraq on CNN at Luc Tuymans’ house. In a good way.

[l to r] Gala Committee’s Think of the Re-runs, TV-Phage, and Fireflies—The Bombing of Baghdad, installed at Red Bull Studio in 2016. image:contemporaryartdaily

In The Name of The Place was only revealed to the public after it was completed. The exhibition/auction catalogue was extremely rare. In 2016, Red Bull Studio staged TOTAL PROOF, an extremely high-production GALA Committee retrospective, with artworks and ephemera displayed in elaborate recreations of Melrose Place sets, designed by LOT-EK. That show was subsumed by the 2016 election, and then Red Bull closed its space and erased its website.

Without Primary Information’s efforts, it’s possible, even likely, that the GALA Committee’s project might have disappeared from history. Instead, it exists in its most powerful form: as a historical artifact of art’s neutrino-like ability to pass through mass cultural production without impact or detection.

Clearly aware of this historiographic power, on the last page of the facsimile reissue, the GALA Committee takes full credit/blame for the seismic shifts in media and marketing culture over the intervening 25 years. “We used to watch television. Now we live in it. Improbably, it was the GALA Committee’s fuzzy-grained millisecond presence on Melrose Place that inspired the new forms of truly interactive virtual environments that we inhabit today.” Said with the brazen confidence of someone who never feels like they’ll be held to account.

Buy Prime Time Contemporary Art Art by the GALA Committee As Seen on Melrose Place, for just $20 [primaryinformation]
TOTAL PROOF | The GALA Committee 1995-1997 at Red Bull Studios, Sept-Nov 2016 [contemporaryartdaily]