Fake Sturtevant Chop Shop

Sturtevant exhibition catalogue from the Everson Museum 1973, designed with Judson Rosebush, offset printed to look like Xerox, image: Tim Byers Art Books, c. 2019 NYABF

This is the catalogue for Sturtevant’s first and only US museum show until her 2014 MoMA retrospective. It is from 1973. The show took place at the Everson Museum in Syracuse, New York. The 104-page catalogue is offset print, but was designed to look like a sheaf of photocopies on regular 8.5 x 11 paper. Sturtevant had the concept, and Judson Rosebush helped design and execute it. While confounding the notion of copy and original, and the notion of books substituting for a seeing an exhibition, this design choice also echoes Seth Siegelaub’s 1968 conceptual exhibition in a catalogue, The Xerox Book.

“Elaine Sturtevant, grouping of 2 – hand-signed prints” is technically true, that there are two, they were printed, and someone signed them. but they are 11 x 8.5 in. pages from a book

But I don’t think people are chopping up The Xerox Book and forging Sol Lewitt’s signatures on his individual pages and trying to pass them off as actual prints. Oh. Maybe that’s only because there are so many color Lewitt catalogues they can chop up and forge signatures on and sell as actual prints.

The Everson catalogue’s all the Sturtevant there is, and it is definitely getting chopped up and turned into forged prints. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that if Sturtevant DID chop up her own catalogues, sign individual pages, and sell them off as prints—or trade individual pages for a cup of coffee at Fanelli’s or whatever—it’d be a helluva coincidence that they all turn up at the same three scammy regional auction houses whose entire LiveAuctioneers.com presence is flooded with similarly “signed” “offset” “original prints” from dozens of other artists.

At this point I think it’s obvious that we need a photocopy facsimile of Sturtevant’s Everson catalogue, so people can see what she did, and appreciate it for what it is, not what it isn’t.

The Doors

an unidentified photo of Duchamp’s 1938 installation, with paintings hung on one of two revolving doors he put on either side of the perforated iron brazier that provided most of the light. ganked from Elena Filipovic’s dissertation

Another thing I learned from Christopher Murtha’s thesis on Sturtevant’s engagement with photography and installation in the making of her Duchamps works is about the doors.

Specifically, I never really noticed or heard that much about the revolving doors Marcel Duchamp used as exhibition devices in the 1938 Exposition internationale du surréalisme he designed/curated at the Beaux-Arts in Paris. As Murtha pointed out, Duchamp later considered other elements from the show to be artworks—1200 Coal Bags Suspended From The Ceiling Over a Stove, for example—but the doors didn’t get the same treatment. Despite, as I see below, Duchamp’s well-documented interest in doors—and Large Glass works that, you must admit, look rather doorish.

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Alreadymade: A Thesis On Sturtevant’s Duchamps

Another example of Sturtevant’s Duchamp Sculpture de Voyage, 1969, from Chris Murtha’s 2021 thesis, “Double Documents: Imaging and Installation in Sturtevant’s ‘Duchamps'”

You know how in 2017, the White House reporter was like, “I’ve been working on this investigation for a year, and he…just…tweeted it out”? This is the diametric opposite on every vector: I was noodling for a couple of hours on a blog post about an auction lot, and he…just…wrote a masters thesis on it.

After posting some thoughts Friday about the Sturtevant repeats of Marcel Duchamp’s photographs of Readymades, I heard from Hunter professor and Sturtevant whisperer Michael Lobel, who shared the fascinating research one of his former students had done on these very artworks, and much more.

Chris Murtha’s 2021 thesis, Double Documents: Imaging and Installation in Sturtevant’s “Duchamps” is the first close look at Sturtevant’s use of photography and installation. These mediums are inextricable from the artist’s decades-long engagement with Duchamp’s work, and Murtha traces how they function both as aspects of art production, and as modes of exhibition and distribution.

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Sturtevant’s Extrapolated Boîte-en-valise

Lot 92: Sturtevant, Duchamp’s In Advance of the Broken Arm, 1967, gouache on photo on cardboard, I think, 20.5 x 15.2 cm, selling at Bonham’s Cornette de St Cyr on 10 Dec 2023 [update: sold for €10,240]

In 1967, Sturtevant restaged Duchamp’s photos of his Readymades in his studio, in her Parisian apartment. And then she repeated Duchamp’s reworking and retouching of the photos for his Boîte-en-valise. And she mounted them on cardboard and added captions & titles.

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How Does Sturtevant’s Candy Pour Work?

From the jump, the experience of encountering a Sturtevant is different from almost all other artworks. The moment of recognition, of loading up your assumptions and expectations of an artist’s work, of anticipating a certain kind of engagement is the same, until the instant it isn’t. Sturtevant’s work triggers a recognition, and then it thwarts it. When you realize a work is by Sturtevant, you consider how close she has gotten to the artist you thought it was by; then you start marking differences. You may also start to reflect on your upended expectations, and to question the systems that produced them.

July 2023 installation view of Sturtevant’s Gonzalez-Torres Untitled (Blue Placebo), 2004, at the Whitney, via Scott Rothkopf’s IG

And by you, I mean me. And the Sturtevant work that has been confounding me for months is Gonzalez-Torres Untitled (Blue Placebo). The 2004 sculpture is a repetition of “Untitled” (Blue Placebo), a 1991 pour of blue cellophane-wrapped candy. The Sturtevant was acquired by the Whitney Museum in 2016, and it went on view for the first time this summer in “Inheritance,” an expansive collection exhibition about legacy and lineage curated by Rujeko Hockley.

As far as I can tell, Sturtevant only made one candy pour. It was shown at least twice in the artist’s lifetime, and this is the second time since her death. How does it work? What does it do? How does a museum handle it? Is there a certificate?

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Sturtevant’s “Torres Untitleds”

I’ve been thinking about the works Sturtevant made of Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ works lately, and noticed this spread in the catalogue for her 2004 exhibition at the MMK Frankfurt. It’s called a catalogue raisonné, but maybe that was to subvert the idea of a catalogue raisonné. This notebook page feels a little more reliable, and yet.

It’s not clear when this was written, but the continuity of the pen makes me think it was after 1997, when her (Blood) bead curtain was shown at Ropac. Some of the artist’s notebook pages reproduced contain sketches, as if the work was not realized yet. This page, neatly laying out two works, feels like a transcription from other, less formalized sources. A lot of the objects’ details have been worked out, and this is how future exhibitions and sales will be recorded. A CR in progress.

A lot of details, but not all. It’s interesting to see what Sturtevant needs to repeat, and what she does not. Here, for example, she was still working through the titles. Here these works are called “Torres Untitled” (Something in parentheses, whether it’s Go-Go ^Dancing Platform or Blood). As it happens, I’d just been reading Tino Sehgal and Andrea Rosen’s conversation in the Specific Objects Without Specific Form exhibition catalogue, and Andrea spoke at length about the specificity of Felix’s “Untitled in Quote” (Something in parentheses) title format. Sturtevant seems to have considered it, maybe even used it for a while, before going with her own format: Gonzalez-Torres Untitled (Go-Go Dancing Platform).

And “1994-95.” [FWIW, this was published as 1995 in 2004.] I don’t know how it only just occurred to me that Sturtevant was making these works while they were being shown in Gonzalez-Torres’ retrospective at the Hirshhorn, MOCA, and Guggenheim.

[Morning after UPDATE: That e-flux link discusses how “Untitled” (Blood) was shown at the Hirshhorn in 1994, but I wonder if it’s more relevant that it was also shown in Paris, where Sturtevant lived, at the Musée d’Art Moderne, in 1995-96. The go-go dancing platform was most definitely not shown at the Hirshhorn, though it’d be wild to imagine Jesse Helms busting in on it seconds after the dancer left. Interestingly, artist Pierre Bal-Blanc, who made a #GRWM work about being a dancer on the platform in 1992, said in 2020 that he discussed it and performance with Sturtevant in 1992. Ofc, thanks to Bruce Hainley’s digging, it was long known by 2020 that Sturtevant did performance work in the 1960s, and specifically dance, so it’d be interesting to know more of what Sturtevant said about it in 1992.]

Better Read #039: Sturtevant at Tate Modern, 2007

I looked at the episode numbers and thought it must be a mistake, but no, there hasn’t been a Better Read since 2021. But I’ve used a Sturtevant text before, in a way; in 2016, I had a computer read several pages of Spinoza’s Ethica, a text Sturtevant included in Vertical Nomad, which she showed at Anthony Reynolds Gallery in 2008.

This is closer to Sturtevant’s Ethica. It is a presentation she made in 2007 at Inherent Vice, a workshop at Tate Modern on the subject and implications of the replica to contemporary art.

Download Better_Read_039_Sturtevant_Tate_20230709.mp3 [greg.org, mp3, 6.4mb, 6:42]

Sturtevant Simulacra, 2013

Sturtevant, Simulacra, 2010, single channel 16:9 video, installation view at Matthew Marks, 2022

A 16:9 iStockvideo of a horned owl was one of many found clips of animals and athletes Sturtevant used in her later works. The video clip shows up in Simulacra (2010), which was seen most recently last fall in the Sturtevant show at Matthew Marks.

Installation view from Sturtevant: Memes, at Freedman Fitzpatrick, 2019, via CAD

It was included in the first show of Sturtevant’s video work in LA, in 2019 at Freedman Fitzpatrick, called, alas, Sturtevant: Memes.

installation view of Sturtevant: Double Trouble, 2014-15, at MoMA

Sturtevant used a screencap of the image as Warhol-style wallpaper in Double Trouble, her retrospective at MoMA in 2014-15, which opened a few months after her death. [At MoMA, it was actually preceded by a wall of Warhol cow wallpaper.]

installation view of Rock & Roll Simulacra, Act 3 (2013) in Leaps Jumps & Bumps, 2013 at the Serpentine Galleries, image: Jerry Hardman-Jones

And before that it was in both video and wallpaper for Leaps Jumps & Bumps at the Serpentine, the last show of her work to open during her lifetime. The aspect ratio seemed important, or intrinsic, a characteristic of the age and the system of media we were all soaking in.

Sturtevant, Rock & Roll Simulacra, Act 3, 2013, 18×32 cm, inkjet on paper, ed. 250, via Serpentine Galleries

Sturtevant also published a screencap from the video as a fundraising edition for the Serpentine. The 16:9 image was printed at 18×32 cm on a piece of paper whose stated size, 39.3 x 53.5 cm, is well within the margin of error of 4:3, video’s old aspect ratio. Sturtevant was not one for nostalgia, though, so I imagine that dimension is coincidental. Anyway, back in the day, when I tried to buy one of the prints from the Serpentine, they said the artist had not been well enough to sign but a few of the intended edition, and their stock had run out.

HD 1080i PAL Owl (Close Up), 2007, by webclipmaker, via istockphoto

At various points since, I’ve looked for the iStockvideo clip Sturtevant used. Thanks to corporate rebranding the watermark was replaced with “iStock by Getty Images.” So hers has now become an artifact of the very system she was laying bare. [Next morning update: on the other hand, you can recreate it with a $60 license and After Effects. She was still right, though.]

Tiny Oldenburg Store Objects, Bacon & Butter

Lot 171: Sturtevant, Oldenburg Store Objects, Bacon & Pat of Butter, 1967, being sold at Swann

I lost track of the Schwartzes selling Sturtevant’s Oldenburg Store Object, Pie Case amidst the Pompon hype. It was one of the most prominent objects from Sturtevant’s April-til-June 1967 repetition of Oldenburg’s The Store, and it was being sold by some of the most important collectors of Sturtevant’s work. [Eugene organized the 1986 Sturtevant comeback show at White Columns that brought her work into the context of the appropriationist Pictures Generation.

Sturtevant, Oldenburg Store Object, Pie Case, 1967, from the Barbara and Eugene Schwartz Collection, sold at Sotheby’s 19 May 2023
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Jasper Johns Painting With Four Stolen Balls

Palle di Venezia, 1964

Trying to trace the whereabouts of Jasper Johns’ 1960 Painting With Two Balls around 1987, when Sturtevant made her Johns Painting With Two Balls, I note that it was reproduced in color in Michael Crichton’s catalogue for Johns’ 1977 Whitney Museum retrospective.

From the notes in the Jasper Johns Catalogue Raisonée, I see that the painting has been on loan to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, beginning March 1979.

Also, that some of the collage pieces date from December 1959.

Also, the construction is as follows: “four mending braces are attached to the canvas with screws, and a strip of wood runs under the bottom edge of the painting.” [Sturtevant’s version has no such strip.]


When the painting returned from a traveling exhibition in November 1962, the original balls were missing and had to be replaced.

That exhibition, 4 Americans: Jasper Johns, Alfred Leslie, Robert Rauschenberg, Richard Stankiewicz, traveled from the Moderna Museet to the Stedelijk to the Kunsthalle Bern, presumably went off without incident until the end. Presumably, the artist made the replacement balls.

The second set was later stolen while the painting was on view at the Venice Biennale in 1964. According to the artist, the balls were replaced again and paint was applied to them with his approval.

So these balls were handled by Italians. They are, in fact, Italian balls. Palle di Venezia. Meanwhile, four of Jasper Johns’ balls are on the loose, last known location: someone’s pockets in Europe. Keep an eye out, I guess.

Sturtevant’s Johns Painting With Two Balls

Sturtevant, Johns Painting With Two Balls, 1987, verso, image via Christie’s

If you were thinking we just saw Sturtevant’s Johns Painting With Two Balls at auction, you were right. Gerald Finberg bought the 1987 work in late 2019 at Phillips, and, I assume, had a couple of great years with it.

Now it’s on the rebound at Christie’s, who spice things up a bit by letting us hit it from the back. The three panel construction and the tapered cross bars are clearly visible and—presumably—like Johns’ 1960 original.

Lot 40C: Sturtevant, Johns Painting With Two Balls, 1987, 165 x 137.5 cm, in the Gerald Fineberg sale at Christie’s

The higher-res images also help make legible some of the fragments of the International Herald Tribune Sturtevant used (from April 23, 1987 at least, when the Stanley Cup was also underway) as she painted this thing in Paris[?].

Jasper Johns, Painting With Two Balls, 1960, 165 x 137.5 cm, collection of the artist, image ganked from Beach Packaging Design

The way we understand Sturtevant’s practice is that she repeated works but didn’t reproduce them, painting from the image in her mind, if not exactly “memory.” But the placement, shape, and even the layering of the brushstroke knots here makes me suspect that’s not how Two Balls went down. I think she used a color image for reference, and maybe even projected it. This is a stroke-for-stroke remake—a drip-for-drip remake, even—which feels categorically different from Sturtevant’s other projects [or at least how they’re presented and understood.]

It feels like there’s a Rauschenberg Factum reference here I can’t quite tease out. It’s not just as if two different people made Factum I and Factum II. It’s two different people made paintings with two balls, 27 years apart, and both of them were there when Rauschenberg made the Factums in the first place. But only one made this comparison possible, decades later, and that’s Sturtevant.

17 May 2023, Lot 40C: Sturtevant, Johns Painting With Two Balls, 1987, est. $500-700k [update: sold for $700k hammer, $882,000 total][christies]
2019 Auction listing at Phillips, where it sold for $680,000 [phillips]
Peter Halley interviewing Sturtevant in 2005 [indexmagazine]

Sturtevant Johns Flag Photobomb

in the Chicago Sun Times photo: Doug Gauman for the Decatur Herald, but reproduced by AP in the Chicago Sun-Times, all via the American Federation of Arts collection at the Archives of American Art via @br_tton

In early March 1969, a sculpture by Marc Morrel of a pillow made of US flags hanging in chains brought the cops to the Decatur Arts Center in central Illinois. The director and president of the board were charged with flag desecration, and the work was confiscated.

The traveling group show, titled, “Patriotic Images in American Art,” was organized by Elizabeth C. Baker, managing editor of Art News Magazine, for the American Federation of Arts, and had been shown in previous venues around the country without incident. @br_tton tweeted the story after finding it in the AFA’s files at the Archives for American Art.

The two men fought the charges as unconstitutional restriction of free speech, but it would be twenty years before another artist, Dread Scott, could get enough judges to agree. But that’s another story.

Because just look at Doug Gauman’s photo for the Decatur Herald’s feature on the exhibition, showing a man looking at “Flag in Chains”: doesn’t that flag in the background look like a Jasper Johns?

And so it should. The AAA file doesn’t have a checklist of the show, but the Herald’s story mentions the title of the 48-star throwback: “Jasper Johns Flag for 7th Ave. Garment Rack.” That Johns flag is by Elaine Sturtevant.

Sturtevant’s 1965 Bianchini Gallery exhibition, featuring 7th Avenue Garment Rack With Andy Warhol Flowers

I don’t have her CR handy, but until now this has been the only image of the works in this show, her first, at the Bianchini Gallery (later the site of Ubu Gallery on East 78th St). But it sounds like this Johns Flag went on a nationwide tour, extended title and all. Now on the internet, for the first time ever!