In 2008 I felt a distinct sense of schadenfreude –an almost gleeful joy — when the art market crashed. The system that had inflated too many and created an unrelentingly economic focus on artistic production was starting to show cracks.
Two years later, Shadowshop started out with a basic assumption: that artists produce. And their production falls within various categories that may or may not be useful or economically viable at different times: from “high” art, to studio sketches, side projects, byproducts, waste, experiments, one-offs, and also commercial work.
Despite this, the artworld demands definitions and it demands clarity as much as it absolutely insists on a hierarchy of production and display. Things get chosen to be exhibited. Things get chosen to be written about. And many things fall by the wayside because they lack the proper context.
Shadowshop offered an invitation to a group of Bay Area artists: what would you present in an art project that exists as a store within a contemporary art museum?
Not quite a museum gift shop, but everything in it would be forced to relate to a context of commerce and institutional value—a problematic and yet highly realistic assessment of how artistic production is generally weighed and evaluated “in the real world”. Here, the scenario is essentially laid bare and exposed: this project looks like and operates like a store. So let the games begin. What could you, would you, do? Commodify yourself? Hate it? Love it? Use it? Be indifferent to it? Leverage it?
Shadowshop is a meditation on both macro and micro-capitalism. What would be possible if I created a system in which artists could utilize the infrastructure of a willing institution to act as a platform for displaying a range of productivity? A place to make not-art art, in some cases. Nothing would cost over $250—on purpose, so as to not compete with existing galleries and to force artists to think on a more intimate, distributable scale, which many already do. Shadowshop funds are channeled towards the express purpose of artists receiving 100% of the sales price of their wares. Potentially this funds future production on an individual level, creates a unique contextual challenge for artists, and exposes museum visitors to artists they may not have otherwise come across.
The wares run an unruly gamut, a reflection of the myriad and sometimes conflicting concerns of the local scene. By presenting a physical redistribution point I hope to give a snapshot of the many ways in which artists are attempting to create small ventures for themselves, at times challenging the very notion of value and compensation. Partially celebratory of the immense wealth of artists located right here in the Bay, and partially critical of the system-at-large which demands us to define what we make in strict relationship to it, Shadowshop tries to offer a way for artists to be at play. Or at least just make some extra income. I see both as valuable in this day and age. We are crass and practical. We are generous. We sell things. We distribute things. Some of us poke fun and yet we are earnest.
Not to mention that everyone loves a gift shop.
Shadowshop has so far sold about $100,000. All this money goes back directly to the artists.
Cherry Picked Items On The Shelf:
Matthew Rana & Rick Butler: "The Autobiography of Ernest Patrick Butler" Comic Book, $20.
Ernest Patrick “Rick” Butler makes his living selling handmade crocheted hats at the MacArthur BART station in Oakland, California where he lives with his dogs Mama and Little One. This 16 page autobiographical comic book, produced in 2009 in collaboration with artist and writer Matthew Rana, chronicles major events during Rick’s life since he began living outside. www.guerreatelier.org
The series Baldessaring Baldessari is part of a larger body of work that critically explores the relationship and recognition of influence. I find that by making portraits of the influencer, often in their own style, I can come to terms with the influence, take what I want from it, and move on. www.robertlarkin.com/
Eleanor Harwood: "I will not curate any more boring shows." Card set of 6 cards and 6 envelopes with black inside. $12 a set
Sarah Smith and Andy Vogt: "Not 4 Consumption." A small sculpture of a cheese cube and a napkin, enclosed in clear-front box with graphics. $25 each.
Not for consumption - or is it? For decades this sculpture has been relentlessly crafted by unsung artisans wielding the tools of the kitchen. ‘Not 4 Consumption’ brings this iconic work to light. Finally, a chance to reconsider this important piece and its complex role in the understanding of the art world itself. Presented here as an ensemble complete with The Contextual Napkin that supports The Cube’s diligent efforts toward making gallery goers more readily accepting of The Situation therein.
Each 5”x7” box includes a uniquely shaped and whittled wood cheddar cheese cube and a faux napkin made from torn paper. The duo is united through the application of rich impasto paintwork. Buyers are urged to arrange and reconfigure the elements while pondering the vastness of the innumerable instances these symbols have been called upon to do their work. andyvogt.com and sarahasmith.com
Imin Yeh: "You too can be a Painter of Light,", Thomas Kinkaid: "Mugshot paint-by-number kit." Printed on Arches 100% Cotton 140 LB Watercolor Paper. Digital Version available at www.adcsource.com. $20 each.
Christina Empedocles: "Used Art Bits." Bags of pink plastic lasercut acrylic birds. $5-$7 each.
These Used Art Bits® are actual parts of what was once a real sculpture! In 2008, 750 pink, florescent birds were glued to a dead tree I chopped down from my brother’s backyard and dragged to Berkeley, California where it was exhibited for 30 days in the former location of the Alphonse Berber Gallery. Now that it’s been disassembled and the tree has long since gone into the woodchipper, I can pass these bits on to you. They may be dirty, cracked, or covered in glue, but that’s what makes them authentically used! I sincerely hope you’ll be able to find a place for them in your own art. www.christinaempedocles.com
Shadowshop is a project by Stephanie Syjuco in conjunction with the SFMOMA exhibition “The More Things Change” and supported by the Live Art program. A temporary and alternative store/distribution point embedded within the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s fifth floor galleries, Shadowshop collected hundreds of artists’ multiples, small works, tchotchkes, catalogs, books, zines, media works, and other distributive creative output. While operating as an actual mom-and-pop style store, Shadowshop became a platform for exploring the ways in which artists are navigating the production, consumption, and dissemination of their work. Four themes (1. artwork-as-commodity, 2. cultural souvenirs, 3. bootlegs and counterfeits, and 4.alternative distribution systems) contextualized selected projects that are both complicit with and also critical of capitalist circulation.
For six months (November 20, 2010—May 1, 2011) Shadowshop featured local Bay Area works, and gave museum visitors access to a wide variety of affordable wares, and provide a snapshot of a vibrant and energetic art scene.
100% of pre-tax sales from Shadowshop went directly to the artists.
About the author
Stephanie Syjuco is a visual artist whose recent work uses the tactics of bootlegging, reappropriation, and fictional fabrications to address issues of cultural biography, labor, and economic globalization. Working primarily in sculpture and installation, her objects mistranslate and misappropriate iconic symbols, creating frictions between high ideals and everyday materials. Born in the Philippines, she received her MFA from Stanford University and BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute.
Her work has been shown nationally and internationally, and included in exhibitions at PS1, the Whitney Museum of American Art, The New Museum, SFMOMA, The Contemporary Museum Honolulu, The San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art, and the California Biennial at the Orange County Museum of Art, among others. In 2007 she led counterfeiting workshops at artspaces in Istanbul, Beijing, and Manila, and she received a 2009 Frieze Projects special commission for the Frieze Art Fair, London. She has taught at Stanford University, The California College of the Arts, UC Berkeley, and Carnegie Mellon University. She lives and works in San Francisco.