A Proposed Katharina Grosse, or PKG

German artist Katharina Grosse paints on an epic scale, creating abstract landscapes, fields, and structures of aerosol paint.

Katharina Grosse, Gateway project for MoMA PS1, 2016, image: König Galerie

In 2016, in the recovering wake of Hurricane Sandy, Grosse painted an abandoned building at Gateway National Recreation Area in The Rockaways, Queens, at the invitation of Klaus Biesenbach, then running MoMA PS1.

It used to be reported/publicized as a sign of success how many private jets flew into EuroAirport Basel Mulhouse, Freiburg (BSL) for Art Basel. NetJets has been a sponsor of the art fair for 23 years, and offers The NetJets ArtBasel Experience to its owners.

Generation Letzte action at Sylt Airport on 6 June 2023, screenshot from tiktok, I think, via @broseph_stalin

In 2023 the climate crisis activists of Generation Letzte took a break from throwing paint on paintings to protest fossil fuels to painting a private jet to protest private jet traffic at Sylt airport in Northern Germany. [This photo of the group was posted to social media a few days after the protest by @broseph_stalin.]

Together these anecdotes outline the contours of a Proposal for a Katharina Grosse [PKG] project at Art Public. the public art program of Art Basel, in which the artist paints all the private jets on the tarmac at BSL.

At first I considered this would be a vast and yet targeted escalation of the disruption of the high-impact industry of private jet travel. By the time I have typed this far, though, I realize that an official commission or programmed artwork would almost certainly be brought to the jet owner/operator/travelers’ attention in advance.

unidentified nft artist at ibiza, 2017 [via]

I can easily imagine ways to prep a plane so that being sprayed with paint does not, in fact, disable it. Rather than gumming up the traffic and diminishing the timesaving aspects of flying private, a Grosse-painted plane could become a badge of pride in the collector community, like a temporary tattoo from a triathlon, or an Ibiza dance club handstamp the morning after on the beach. Each plane becomes a unique edition, with a corresponding NFT to be minted for each jet. [Too bad NFTs crashed, because the wrangling among fractional share owners and the mintless ignominy of the mere charter passengers and hitchhikers would be a vibe.]

No, it doesn’t matter how crunchy James Murdoch is, this PKG cannot be part of the official, announced programme; it loses too much. As with any climate emergency-related changes, the sooner it can take effect, the sooner the damage can be mitigated. So 2024 is the obvious best time for it to happen. Or perhaps its unrealized nature is its real strength, and the impact comes from its possibility, that this Art Basel, this might finally be the year you fly around and find out.

Police spraying protesters in Kampala, Uganda, May 10, 2011 [image james akena/reuters via cfr.org]

At some point, though, perhaps things will flip. And the public opprobrium of flying private outweighs its cachet. At that point, the PKG operates like a dye bomb in a bank bag, or a dyed water cannon at a protest, a way to stain and mark and track offenders. Painting is not only not dead, it’s alive and on the run.

Underground Projection Room (For Rattlesnakes)

Robert Smithson, Underground Projection Room (Utah Museum Plan), 1971, graphite on paper, 9×11.75 inches, lot 145 @ LA Modern, 21 June 2023

According to the friend of my mom’s whose family used to own the ranch land on and around Rozel Point, the basalt-strewn hill above the Spiral Jetty is full of rattlesnake dens. I don’t know if Robert Smithson knew this when he picked the site, but I doubt it. He was more focused on the scenic qualities: the pink salt water of the Great Salt Lake, and the collapsed oil derrick a little further along the shore.

I’ve thought about it a lot, though, especially when I think about Smithson’s original plan to show the Spiral Jetty film on a continuous loop in an underground screening room on the site. A sketch for that idea (above) will be sold next week at LA Modern auction house.

Which is as good an occasion as any to propose that Smithson’s idea be realized. For the snakes.

greg.org, Study for Underground Projection Room For Snakes, 2023

As half the human population on earth knows, tiny flatscreens are a thing. And so is solar power. Smithson’s film, Spiral Jetty, is 36 minutes long and can easily fit on a micro SD card that plugs into an Arduino-compatible 60×94 pixel TinyScreen+, which can be lowered into the snake den.

The TinyScreen+ next to a US quarter, $39.95 at TinyCircuits.com

A small solar panel on the surface, connected to a battery connected to the Tinyscreen down below will keep the movie streaming endlessly, or until the heat death of the planet, whichever comes first. Before installing them for the snakes, I think I need to make a small edition of prototypes first. And to start by extracting out my copy of the film from the not-solid-state external drive. Fingers crossed that this project isn’t over before it starts

All Respect For My Judd Furniture Knocking Off Kings

A real thing of beauty: Lot 107, Donald Judd, rare galvanized steel armchair, est. $60-80k at Wright20

I knocked off Donald Judd because I had to; there was no such thing as a Judd Crib. Michael and Gabrielle Boyd, meanwhile, knocked off Donald Judd because they could. By acquiring an extremely rare 1 of 2 Judd armchair in galvanized steel directly from the artist in life, they generated an auratic bubble where fabricating your own Douglas Fir ply chairs was apparently preferable to buying estate editions. Which, in 2010, were fully available, btw.

[few days later update: whoops. they’re gone.]

Lot 111 in the third Boyd sale at Wright20: two After Donald Judd chairs in Douglas fir ply, est. $2-3,000

Lot 107: Donald Judd, Rare Armchair 1, 1993, est. $60-80,000 [wright20]
Lot 111: After Donald Judd, pair of chairs, c. 2010, est. $2-3,000 [wright20]
Backward and Forward Slant Chairs in 19 hardwoods and plys [judd.furniture]

Jacques Barthélémy Delamarre Facsimile Object [D1] ‘Pompon’

Lot 353: Jacques Barthélémy Delamarre, “active 1800-1824”??, Portrait of a small poodle, said to be “Pompon,” a favorite of Marie-Antoinette, 9.5 x 12. 5 in., est. $3-5,000. image: sothebys.com

Please sit with this image of this painting by Jacques Barthélémy DeLamarre of Marie Antoinette’s purported dog for a minute. It will be sold tomorrow at Sotheby’s. There is no reserve, and the estimate is $3-5,000 US, so it will sell.

[Day after the sale Update: by now one of the most interesting things about this painting, for most people, anyway, is that it sold for $279,400, 50x its original estimate. There is no logical explanation for this. 15 bidders were reported, though by the time it got into six figures, I suspect only a couple remained. Please note the update from the day before the sale at the bottom of this post. It seems to indicate that when this painting sold at Bonham’s in 1986, the narrative of Pompon and Marie-Antoinette was missing. So far, I haven’t been able to find when it comes in, either. Whether this is just a moment of Pomponomania (as Michael Lobel calls it), or a wider spread Pompondemic remains to be seen.]

From the minute this post goes live until the minute the painting sells, I will make a full-scale Facsmile Object of it available on this website for $300, 10% of the low estimate of the painting. It will include a handmade, full-scale Certificate of Authenticity, signed, numbered and stamped.

[Thursday Update: I misread the auction, which *started* today, and continues for eight days. I was pacing myself for a Pompon sprint, not a marathon, and I think we’ll all be better off without a week of wheezing Pompon hype. The Facsimile Object is no longer available. Within hours there were 20 bids; the price now stands at $US 6,000 220,000. Holy smokes, this is where it ended, $279,400. Thank you for your engagement.]

There is absolutely no reason anyone should buy this Facsimile Object or, for that matter, this painting. Within the next 24 hours, someone will clearly do the latter, which should be folly enough. It is buck wild to me that in that same time frame, someone will also do the former. Because they will want to have the physical experience of sitting with this picture, and sitting with an image of it on a screen will not suffice. I absolutely get it. [Huge shoutout to artist Jeanette Hayes who says, understandably, “I have never loved a painting more.”]

Continue reading “Jacques Barthélémy Delamarre Facsimile Object [D1] ‘Pompon’”

Slinky Palermo, Slinky Palermo

I scanned over my neighbors.
Slinky Palermo, Slinky Palermo
Now I’m in all the papers.

Who knew, indeed?: A “minimal art painting”, n.d., by Slinky Palermo on Thai Pinterest.

So far we have only two images of artworks attributed to Slinky Palermo, from Pinterest [above] and tumblr [below]. I guess technically, it’s slinky palermo.

“Slinky Palermo/ Window Installation View 1970”, screenshot of elin-andersson-blog’s quiet tumblr

Though namechecked by famous critics in prominent places, and included with major historic figures in a publication for a group show,

Slinky Palermo cited in a Mutual Art syndication of a c. 2006 Jerry Saltz Village Voice review of Michael Krebber originally digitized by Proquest; a tumblr; and an Italian rare book dealer’s listing for a 1968 group show exhibition catalogue, image: google

the most significant critical information we have on the artistic practice of Slinky Palermo comes from just two sources.

The first is the Dia Art Foundation, which exhibited Slinky Palermo works from 1964-1997 in 2011, as seen in the results for two slightly differently worded Google searches:

“‘Slinky Palermo’ was in fact the assumed name adopted by the young German art[ist?]… [unknown]”
“Slinky Palermo’s commitment to painting was steadfast during the late 1960s, a period in which the medium was widely felt as untenable for… [unknown]”

It may be possible that additional Google searching will yield more detail from these truncated excerpts, in the way that you can, in desperation, search phrase by incremental phrase in a Google book snippet view.

The other is a New York Magazine directory listing for a 1995 exhibition at Brooke Alexander:

“Slinky Palermo — A retrospective of editioned graphic works by this German artist (1943-1977) who saw abstraction as an inquiry into the philosophy of phenomenology” image: google books

Whatever it may have been in the past, from this point forward, Slinky Palermo is an artist who sees abstraction as a Google search into the philosophy of epistemology.

Given the absence of actual books in the Google Books results, it seems likely that most Slinky Palermo mentions can be attributed to OCR software that predates Google’s own scanning initiative. Whether it’s a steadfast commitment painting in the face of untenable something, or glitching industrial-scale digitization, Slinky Palermo is a tenacious artifact—a bookmark, if not a flagbearer—of a specific historic moment and context, and for those that inhabit and revisit it. Which, looking prospectively, is all of us.

The John Brown Andirons from The Wolf Family Collection

Untitled (Andiron Attributed to Paul Revere, Jr.), 2015, post here; original Met record here

There are some developments in the andiron space.

In the eight years since an archival photo of a lone andiron at the Met attributed to Paul Revere—I’m struggling here to say exactly what it did. Diverted me onto a lyrical, conceptual mission? Transmuted itself into an artwork and me into an artist? Whatever, it changed my life. Point is, while I did not turn into some andiron freak, I did gain a somewhat heightened—heightened and specific—awareness of andirons in the world.

Continue reading “The John Brown Andirons from The Wolf Family Collection”

Untitled (Free As In America), 2016/2023

America by Budweiser, available from Memorial Day thru Election Day, 2016.

Beginning the Spring of 2016 and running through the Fall, I put out Untitled (Free As In America), a series of Cady Noland sculptures replicated with the America beer cans that Anheuser-Busch InBev replaced Budweiser with in the run-up to the US presidential election. The concept was to remake any sculpture for only the cost of the raw materials it required.

Exactly none of these sculptures were realized in the window in which Budweiser’s America cans were available.

You see it. I’m not mentioning it or linking to it.

Now the window has reopened. As the right wing is consumed by its own flames of hate and violence, it seeks to transform that hate into consumption. Recognizing the futility of icing out the giant, international beer conglomerate for paying a trans woman to promote one of their products on her own social media channel, some grifter created an alternative: right-wing beer.

Cady Noland, This Piece Has No Title Yet, 1989, Budweiser and scaffolding and stuff, the Rubells

As long as this beer is actually for sale, then, I will make Untitled (Free As In America) sculptures available again. I will replicate any Cady Noland sculpture, replacing the Budweiser cans with perfect replicas of—when I started this post, it was going to be replicas of the grift beer. But no, it will be replicas of the 2016 America cans, made by the finest trans metallurgists and artists in the world. All proceeds beyond the production costs will be used to fund trans legal defense, health care, and emergency support services. Prices run from $100 million for a basket to $1 billion for a room-sized installation.

ONE DAY LATER UNBELIEVABLE UPDATE: In a statement literally titled, Our Responsibility To America, Anheuser-Busch InBev caves to trolls attacking their product and threatening humans with baseball bats. To update Cady Noland, “Violence has always been around. The seeming [systematization] of it now actually indicates the [work] of political organization representing different interests. ‘Inalienable rights’ become something so inane that they break down into men believing that they have the right to be superior to women (there’s someone lower on the ladder than they) so if a woman won’t date them any more they have a right to murder them.”

A FEW DAYS LATER UPDATE: I joked about it, but now other people investigating the grifter’s sourcing are saying it is actually likely the case that the rightwing grifterbeer is made in an Anheuser-Busch plant. It’s America all the way down.

Previously, related: Free As In America

Untitled (Koch Block I), 2014/2023

On Tuesday, September 9, 2014, The Metropolitan Museum of Art enacted what historian Daniel J. Boorstin called a pseudo-event. It was intended to draw public attention to David Koch, a right-wing extremist whose inherited fossil fuel fortune funds a vast network of politicians, judges, lobbyists, and ideologues that has pursued power in its own service for decades.

A small fraction of his wealth, $65 million, was used to redo the plaza in front of the Met, where Koch was a trustee. The main feature is a pair of large, square, fountains of black granite, with circles of choreographed water jets. The fountains are ringed by a rough cut black granite seating ledge that bears the inscription, David H. Koch Plaza, in gilt letters.

Untitled (Koch Block), 2014 — ongoing, performance/condition, documented in 2018

In 2017 I made a work of an endless, collaborative performance of negation, where the Met’s millions of visitors and passersby, New Yorkers and outsiders alike, continuously sit in a way that blocks this aggrandizing, carved text from view. That piece is called Untitled (Koch Block), and it is still in process. Please join it whenever you’re nearby.

But there is another work, a predecessor, unearthed only recently, through a search for something else, I already forget what. On the 9th of September, the Metropolitan Museum invited the Kochs—David and his wife, Julia, whose first socialite outing in New York was co-chairing the Met Gala in 1997, a year after their marriage—to flip the switch on the fountain for the media assembled, and in the presence of local politicians and functionaries, museum leaders, neighborhood schoolchildren, and a youth chorus dressed in white and wearing red gloves, who sang a dissonant arrangement of “New York, New York.”

Here is the switch.

Untitled (Koch Block I), wood, steel, paint, old Met logo, est. 48 x 24 x 24 in., installed September 9, 2014. photo for Getty Images by Paul Zimmerman via WireImage
Continue reading “Untitled (Koch Block I), 2014/2023”

Untitled (On A Clear Day), 2023

Apr. 18, Lot 25: Agnes Martin, On A Clear Day, 1973, silkscreen on paper, mounted, each sheet 12×12 in., est. $150-200k at Christie’s

A complete edition of Agnes Martin’s silkscreen portfolio, On A Clear Day, is coming up for auction at Christie’s, from “an important corporate collection” I expect is the merged remnant of the Chase Manhattan Bank.

It’s as good an occasion as any to reflect on two aspects of this important work: As print curator Riva Castleman explained when The Museum of Modern Art announced the exhibition and gift of the prints [pdf], Martin did not make them. She selected “30 drawings from more than 300 that she executed in 1972…[and] had the Domberger silkscreen workshop in Stuttgart cut the stencils to their exact measurements without attempting to duplicate her autographic line.” This was in order “to replace, by means of mechanical application, the illusionary and irregular drawing that detracted from the perfection she sought in her compositions.”

Agnes Martin, Untitled (Study for On A Clear Day), 1972, graphite on paper, 30 9×9 in. drawings, collection SFMOMA

The Fishers bought what seem to be the 30 drawings—which are shockingly loose for Martin—and they are now at SFMOMA as a Untitled (Study for On A Clear Day), which is not quite how it went down? But close.

The other thing is, though the artist conceived On A Clear Day as mechanically supplanting the imperfections of her autographic line, it is credited with pulling her out of self-imposed isolation and re-starting Martin’s art production. Yet she also made 300 drawings for it in 1972. And her correspondence with curator Sam Wagstaff from the time she supposedly wasn’t painting—1971-72—includes references to making paintings. And to loaning, selling, and planning to show work. So she was not isolated, and had not stopped working, but was managing her work’s reception while still seeking its perfection.

Anyway, it’s a good time to have an extra couple of hundred thousand dollars and some taste. For my part, I am trying to figure out the best way back from the silkscreens to the drawings. Which seems like a more easily realizable project than my other Untitled (On A Clear Day), to reuinite one of the broken-up editions as a work.

Lot 25: Agnes Martin, On A Clear Day, 1973, est. $150-200k [christies]
[morning after update: sold for $264,600. nice work.]
Previously, related: Untitled (On A Clear Day), 2015
Agnes Martin Mini-Storage

Untitled (Newman Twelfth Station Glitch I & II), 2013—

[l to r]: Barnett Newman, Twelfth Station, 1965, acrylic on canvas, 78 x 60 in., collection: NGA; Study for Untitled (Newman Twelfth Station Glitch I), 2013/2023, jpg of pdf

It’s been almost ten years since I found the Internet Archive scan of the Guggenheim’s 1966 catalogue for the debut exhibition of Barnett Newman’s Stations of The Cross had not one, but two alternating glitches in it.

Study for Untitled (Newman Twelfth Station Glitch II), 2013/2023, jpg of pdf

And ten years and five minutes since I decided they should be made into paintings.

And ten years, five minutes and a day since I last thought about me actually painting them myself. I guess these things just take time. I was about to buy an old catalogue of Barnett Newman prints when I realized I already had two. And that memory of Newman’s interest in the borders around prints, intrinsic to the medium, and his treating lithograph stones as an instrument to be played, reminded me of these pages. And though my previous comparison this instrument metaphor to Richard Prince’s description of playing a camera didn’t help me make the connection at the time, I now see that a scanner can be an instrument as well, with what Newman called its repertoire of “instrumental licks.” [Which, now that I type it, reminds me of Sigmar Polke’s hyperexpressive use of a Xerox machine to make his artist’s book, Daphne. But if the artist introduces them himself, are they even glitches?]

Still not sure what form(s) these should take—whether books, or prints, or paintings, or paintings of paintings—but I am glad to be thinking about it again.

Glitch II is still there, btw. [1.8mb pdf]

Previously, related:
Glitches of The Stations of The Cross
Creation is Joined with the Playing

Mural With Girl With A Pearl, 2023

Mural With Girl With A Pearl, 2023, paint on plaster, Vermeer, dimensions variable (installation view via @BMPMurphy)

I’m not sure I could think of a greater honor than to have work in a two-artist exhibition with Vermeer. I certainly didn’t think of anything before today.

But now I am beyond thrilled to announce my site-specific installation, Mural With Girl With A Pearl is on view at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. It comprises a painting on the wall holding Girl With A Pearl, and the painting Girl With A Pearl itself. It’s hard to say how long it will be there; certainly this incarnation won’t go past March 30th, when Girl With A Pearl goes back to The Hague. Tickets to see it are definitively not available. [But if you do go, SEND PICS!]

Like Vermeer’s work, which it incorporates, it is an exploration of the subtle effects of light captured in built up layers of paint. And like those light effects, it may be fleeting, perceived only in the periphery of vision, occupying the liminal spaces around the older work that is the predictable draw of our attention.

Mural With Girl With A Pearl, 2023, paint on plaster, Vermeer (installation view via @blogexhibitions)

But for now, if you look up, and the gallery lights hit at the right angle, you will feel your field of view, and with the close looking you’ve exercised, you’ll recognize the changing world beyond the frame.

Mural With Girl With A Pearl, 2023, paint on plaster, Vermeer (installation view via @BrothersCammy)

You’ll see the new horizon coalesce just above Girl with a Pearl Earring‘s head. The loose grid of brusquely brushed forms —pearls? lights? ships? celestial figures? yet too big to be stars?—shimmering in formation in the graying sky.

While the current installation involves Girl with a Pearl, I am happy to discuss how to make the piece work for your Vermeer, too. Or, if you’re at the Mauritshuis, we can recreate the Amsterdam magic. Just because the Vermeer show is once-in-a-lifetime doesn’t mean this collab has to be, too.

Mural With Girl With A Pearl, 2023, installation view via @worldelsewhere/ig

April Update: Thanks to @worldelsewhere, I am able to say that the installation stayed up until Girl With A Pearl left for the Mauritshuis. Thank you all for your engagement.

Previous, related museum works:
The Wall, 2021, Musée du Louvre
Proposte Monocrome, gris, 2017, The Metropolitan Museum

ASMRt — Jasper Johns House Call

Jasper Johns, Paregoric as Directed Dr Wilder, 1962, 20.25 x 14 in., paper, oil and graphite on canvas, sold at Christie’s in 2012

When Douglas Cramer sold this Jasper Johns painting at Christie’s in 2012, he told the story of its creation, as a thank you to a doctor for making a house call the artist didn’t have the money to pay for. But that feels incomplete, since, if Johns filled Dr Wilder’s prescription for Paregoric at the Sande Drugs on 76th Street, doesn’t that mean he was living in his penthouse on Riverside Drive by then? I think there’s more to the relationship with Dr. Wilder than, “If I live I’ll pay you Tuesday.” [If nothing else, they stayed in touch enough for Dr & Mrs. Joseph Wilder to loan the painting to the artist’s solo show at the Jewish Museum in 1964.]

Anyway, I found my way to this painting, and the text for this installment of ASMRt, through John Yau’s 2018 article for Hyperallergic, which I just reread, having bookmarked it at the time.

Download ASMRt_Jasper_Johns_Paregoric_20230314.mp3 [17:49, 17mb, greg.org

EK 10 MAR 23 T

Ellsworth Kelly, 13 Drawings, 1979 8.5 x 11 in each, graphite on paper, marked “EK 1-13 JAN 25 79” on the verso, to be sold at Christie’s NYC on March 10, 2023, with an estimate of USD 300-500,000.

It’s late January. It’s cold and gross back home, but you’ve gotten away. You’re at the beach. Let’s say St. Maarten. The house fits a few friends. It’s quiet, peaceful, relaxing, private. Or maybe it’s joyous, raucous, uninhibited, and freeing. Honestly, I don’t know, I wasn’t there. One morning before breakfast, or maybe it was a late afternoon after a hot day at the beach, you notice your friend Ellsworth sitting on the edge of his lounge chair, facing away from the pool and toward the rhododendrons. You don’t disturb him. As you’re about to drive him to the airport, he presents you with a sheaf of drawings, a token of thanks for a wonderful visit. You cherish those drawings and the memories they evoke for 44 years, then you sell them at Christie’s for half a million dollars.

EK 10 MAR 23 T, 2023, silkscreen on Hanes Authentic T-shirt, $30 or $40, shipped.

Everyone marks the 100th anniversary of Ellsworth Kelly’s birth differently. Some people organize a massive, traveling exhibition. Some sell the stack of plant drawings Kelly gave them from January 25, 1979. And some people celebrate the sale of those drawings with a T-shirt.

The EK 10 MAR 23 T is silkscreened on daffodil yellow Hanes Authentic T, and is accompanied by a hand-signed and numbered certificate of authenticity. The shirt will be available only until the completion of the sale of Lot 139, Ellsworth Kelly, 13 Drawings, at Christie’s New York, this Friday, March 10. The sale starts at 10AM Eastern, with Lot 101. After the sale ends, two shirts will be available, upon proof of ownership, as a prize for a successful bidder—or, worst case, as a consolation for an unsuccessful seller. Otherwise, get your orders in before like 10:30 Eastern?

[Note: If the project reaches a breakeven number of 10 t-shirts, it’s a go, otherwise I’ll refund everyone and cancel it. This is the first shirt project I’ve done since Elmugeddon, and I frankly have no idea what my social media reach is these days. Or what t-shirt fatigue may be setting in, for you or for me.]

The shirt is $30 shipped in the US, and $40 shipped worldwide. Order an EK 10 MAR 23 T via PayPal until the morning of Friday, March 10, 2023:

[morning of Friday, March 10, 2023 update: the drawings failed to sell at a top bid of $220,000. Please accept two t-shirts as your consolation prize, dear seller, and thank everyone else for engaging!]

Previous, related: four other conceptual t-shirt projects

Autoprogettazione, Autodistruzione

Designer Enzo Mari and his wife, critic Lea Vergine, passed away one after the other in October 2020, the pre-vaccine stage of the COVID pandemic. Disegno Journal assembled a roundtable reminiscence of them, with Mari’s longtime assistant, Francesca Giacomelli; designers Martino Gamper and Corinna Sy; design historian Cat Rossi; and curators Hans Ulrich Obrist and Lorenza Baroncelli. Thanks to greg.org reader/hero Doug for sharing the transcript, which has recently been republished.

When Mari died, my regret at never sending him information about my Mari X IKEA table exploration was quickly subsumed by my outrage over the fate of his archive and studio. Mari’s archive, his research, his documentation, his journals, his vast collections, all come up many times in the extensive and fascinating discussion:

Francesca: “This archive is a complex codified diary in which Mari collected and conserved his projects and wider programme of revolutionary ideas; it is his life’s work, the essence of his research. For Mari, “The research is the design, not the product”. Now we need to rediscover those methods and ideas, preserve them, and celebrate their astonishing transformative potential.”

Hans Ulrich “Francesca has this immense knowledge and there are literally 2,000 projects or more that Enzo created during his career – she knows each of those 2,000 projects by heart. There’s no-one on the planet who knows more about Mari than her, but this idea of knowledge production was key for Enzo. He wanted design to convey knowledge and so the exhibition in that sense also has to be about producing knowledge. It would be absolutely contrary to his idea of work if the exhibition was about objects and not research.”

Martino “He was also a collector and had a really big knife collection, for instance. Whenever he traveled, he would buy knives. I wanted it for my Serpentine show [Martino Gamper: Design Is a State of Mind, 2014, ed.], but he wouldn’t lend it. He was an avid collector of everyday objects – a bit like Castiglioni, but actually a lot more. I don’t know what’s going to happen with his private collections. They’ve never been shown. He must have kept the knives in his house, because I never saw them in his studio.”

Lorenza “His studio was impressive. It’s going to be destroyed, in accordance with his wishes, but every room was devoted to a topic. One room for materials; one room for prototypes; and all the chairs were stored in the bathroom. The most interesting room was the kitchen, because that was where they produced objects. He was also obsessed with the archive, so created two books with the list of all the objects in the studio and all the documents. He gave Arabic numbers to every object and catalogued everything in those two books. This programmatic system was the basis of his work and I think is the reason why there was no difference between art and objects and graphic design – for him, it was all part of one unique path.”

Wait what? Yes, you read that right. His studio was going to be destroyed, in accordance with his wishes. And his archive, given to the City of Milan, is sealed from public view for “two generations,” forty years.

On the one hand, and it’s a big hand for me, this is basically the rest of my life. On the other hand, it just feels optimistic, maybe even a little dangerously naive, to entrust one’s legacy to a world as it will exist forty years from now. Maybe that’s the bigger hand, the non-zero possibility that society, much less the Milan municipal government, will not be around to open the Mari box in 2060. Between Francesca and Hans Ulrich, can we not crack this open a little sooner please?

Enzo Mari was a Universe [disegnojournal, s/o designnow]