In a few weeks, “For Sale,” a show curated by Jens Hoffmann, director of San Francisco’s Wattis Institute, will open at Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art in Lisbon. Hoffmann’s statement describes the exhibition as a reflection of the current trend toward curators organizing shows in commercial galleries, a tactic which downplays the space’s art-dealing in favor of its cultural role. Playing slightly deuxiÃ¨me degré, Hoffmann has asked the artists that he selected for works directly reflecting the fact that the show takes place in a commercial context. The artists lists is strong, multi-generational and brainy, including Allora & Calzadila, John Baldessari, Elmgreen & Dragset, Andrea Fraser, Ryan Gander, Louise Lawler, Tim Lee, Jonathan Monk, Raymond Pettibon, Tino Sehgal, and Mario Garcia Torres.
Here’s the interesting twist: “None of the works in the exhibition can be bought individually and the show can only be acquired as a whole. This fact… obstructs the eventual purchase of the art works - it is clearly more expensive and far more complex to acquire a whole show rather than an individual work. While seemingly completely embracing the commercial aspect of the gallery, FOR SALE in fact tries to obstruct routine business.”
I’d love to see this show due its artists and concept, yet I’m especially curious how effective Hoffmann’s dictate will prove in its stated objective. Frankly, I would not be entirely surprised if some collector takes the plunge, given the mixture of hot young names and established stars, plus Hoffmann’s own curatorial imprimatur. (Obligatory disclosure: Hoffmann curates the Art Perform section of Art Basel Miami Beach; we also once survived a kimchi-and-karaoke night out together in Gwangju, Korea.) After all, if art-market history teaches us anything, it’s that the market is endlessly inventive and surprising when confronted with attempts to obstruct or circumvent it. For someone with tons of money and a big display space, who also happens to share Hoffmann’s taste, the Lisbon show could prove an attractive way to turbo-charge their collection. (Or a museum, better yet.) If it “fails,” this concept could prove strikingly successful for everyone concerned.