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frieze art fair: cory arcangel’s ticket to ride

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Cory Arcangel is best known for digital art projects—hacking into Nintendo game cartridges, erasing everything but the clouds in Super Mario, slowing Tetris down to an excruciatingly torpid pace. But for this year’s Frieze Projects, curated by Neville Wakefield, Arcangel is hacking into the art world’s biggest high-stakes game: the Fair itself. Using Willy Wonka as his muse, the 30-year-old Brooklyn-based Arcangel hid one golden ticket, good for a free exhibition booth, among hundreds of chocolate bars sent to galleries that failed to gain acceptance to the 2008 Frieze Art Fair. Here he talks about his game theory for driving the fun at the fair.

Who’s the lucky winner?

Studiò di Giovanna Simonetta from Italy.

Were there galleries in the running that you personally wished hadn’t been rejected?

The process was completely confidential. I didn’t mail the tickets, Frieze Foundation did that on my behalf. Therefore, I never knew who was unsuccessful in their application.

Was it your decision to do it that way, or did the Frieze Foundation require confidentiality in order to accept your project?

Frieze does their application process entirely confidentially, therefore this had to be a part of my process as well.

Does the gallery get to keep their ticket? Did they win both an opportunity and also one of your original works?

They get both the booth and a unique signed silk screen on gold Mylar by myself—as well as, of course, a “Frieze”-branded candy bar.

Do you consider this project a critique of the popularity contest aspect to art fairs? Or were you just being nice and giving a gallery a lucky break?

I was interested in creating an artwork using only the mechanics and structure of the contemporary art fair, and I will be experiencing it along with everyone else when I go to Frieze and see Studiò di Giovanna Simonetta’s booth. I think what the project is about will become clear during the fair.

How does this piece relate to your previous work?

Most of my work is about the structure of the materials I have appropriated to create the work. Traditionally, I have focused on the moving image and sound, but this was a great opportunity to use the “art fair” as the materials. So it is quite in line with my other things, although in a completely different medium.

What do you forecast will be different about this year’s fair, considering the global credit crunch and everyone’s overall anxieties?

Maybe people will remember that artworks and ideas can transcend economics.

Do you feel that all the media focus on the art market hurts art and artists?

When I’m in my studio (a.k.a. my desk in my apartment in Brooklyn), the media attention toward the market doesn’t faze me one bit. I don’t think the media attention makes any difference.

Does critical response to your work ever influence your thinking about what you do, what it means, and why?

Yeah, totally. If someone whose opinion I respect says something about my work, I do listen, and this can change my thoughts about certain things. I need all the help I can get sometimes.

Do you enjoy art fairs?

I don’t think anybody “enjoys” art fairs. They’re loud and stressful. But I do respect them because they are, I think, the most honest part of the commercial art industry. A lot of galleries have gotten so big they pretend they’re museums, but at an art fair they can’t pull this switch and cover.

You often play with the structure of games. How do you define a “winner” in the art world?

Good question. Any way I answer this, I am going to sound like a hippie, but I guess being a winner in the art industry as an artist is just staying one step ahead of yourself, and keeping yourself challenged. It is also worth noting that “winning” has nothing to do with the outside. It’s a personal thing.

Photo: Courtesy of Frieze Art Projects

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