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Vol. LXIV, No. 2
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
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Relationship Between Art and Money Subject of Latest Arts Council Exhibit

Ellen Gilbert

A formidable collection of works by Andy Warhol is the centerpiece of “Consumed,” an exhibition about art, money, and consumption at the Arts Council of Princeton. Its opening last Saturday saw a frenzy of activity, with artists and patrons gathering to engage with the material.

On view until February 27, the show features the paintings, sculpture, photographs, and installations of artists Mollie Murphy, Gregory Perkel, Joe Scanlan, Jules Schaeffer, Rachel Perry Welty, and Andrew Wilkinson.

“It wouldn’t be possible to be working in contemporary art today and not be influenced by Warhol,” Arts Council Executive Director Jeff Nathanson acknowledged, referring to the way the works were related.

With their distinct styles, the artists all grapple with ideas of consumption, purchasing, collecting, and of value.

At first glance, two of Ms. Welty’s pieces seem like multicolored line drawings against a white background, but further inspection reveals that the lines are actually carefully cut fruit stickers. Both works, And Brand and Nunn Better, were created in 2009. Also included in her oeuvre are miniature shopping bags in the bright signature colors of designer stores, entitled Little Luxuries.

Of the works by Mr. Perkel in the exhibition, most use carefully assembled cut corrugated cardboard. In his artist’s statement, he asks, “In this year of K-Marts, WalMarts, and other Super-Mega-Marts, what could be more trivial than the cardboard boxes in which products are stored before they are sold?” The artworks, including The Stellar Wind Catcher, The Sail, a wall-sized assemblage made in 1996, evoke the prior history of the material.

The fourteen Warhols on view are from the collection of New Jersey resident Gregory McCoy. The pieces were created in the 1970s and 80s, and include work from Warhol’s Dollar Sign series. The exhibition materials feature this Warhol original: “I’d asked around 10 or 15 people for suggestions. Finally, one lady friend asked the right question, ‘Well, what do you love most?’ That’s how I started painting money.”

The relationship between the artist and the market is also explored, with exhibition organizers Maria Evans, Andrea Honore, and Mr. Nathanson acknowledging that “it is almost impossible for a contemporary artist to create completely free from economic realities.”

Mr. Nathanson said that the idea for the show first came up when the Arts Council was housed in its temporary space at the Shopping Center. “We thought that a show about art and money would be really interesting. The economic crisis hadn’t happened yet, but there was enough turmoil,” he noted.

Upon seeing Mr. McCoy’s collection of Warhols, the concept for the show was solidified, Mr. Nathanson said.

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