Domus, July - August 2010


By Vincenzo Latronico

Fondata da Shelly Bancroft e Peter Nesbett nel 2001 nel quartiere newyorkese di Harlem, la galeria Triple Candie ricrea opere d'arte di artisti noti e le espone senza il loro consenso.

Founded by Shelly Bancroft and Peter Nesbett in New York's Harlem district in 2001, the gallery Triple Candie recreates works of art by famous artists and shows them without their permission.

"If you have painted a Vermeer," they say, "either you are a forger or you are Vermeer." Actually, the other alternative is also a kind of fake, because it used to be common practice for provincial museums to commission copies of famous paintings to educate the public at a low cost. So, if you have painted a Vermeer and you are not Vermeer, you may be someone who has done it for the common good. The same applies if you have made a Cattelan sculpture. But, in that case, if you are not the artist, you may be New York's Triple Candie, on eof the most mysterious and creative art institutions on the contemporary scene. It originated in 2001 as a nonprofit space run by Shelly Bancroft and Peter Nesbett, and for years the two held "traditional" exhibitions (with artists of the calibre of Mark Lewis and Kiki Smith), living or scraping along as one art space among the many. After a while, however, this situation led to a stalemate.

The growth in the market and the surge in economic expectations linked to art made it increasingly difficult and costly to work with artists who were deemed interesting. There were too many biennial and fair commitments, the galleries worked against you, and the artists were hesitant. Hence, after years of trying in vain to contact David Hammons to organize an exhibition of his work, Bancroft and Nesbett simply decided to stage teh show regardless. The Hammons exhibition, his only [1] (and unauthorized) retrospective, consisted -- for copyright and other reasons -- in photocopies reproductions of all his works available in catalogue and library form. It was a sincere homage to the work of an artist who is considered seminial, but not to his intentions, which Triple Candie believed went against the public interest in his work. Were they legitimate intentions? According toe Bancroft and Nesbett the answer is no. This led to the recent practice of Triople Candie, which has, among other things, made a name for itself with what was "roughly speaking" a Cady Noland exhibition (showing copies of her sculptures reconstrcuted from photographs and by inventing what was not visible) and a posthumous retrospective on Maurizio Cattelan (still alive and well). Their exhibitions have prompted divergent and often very hostile reactions in the art world but an equally warm welcome in their home district of Harlem, in open dispute with what are the geographical (and social, racial, and class) sites of New York art. Institutional criticism has become consolidated artistic practices; artists avail of it to show that, broadly speaking, institutions go against the collective interest -- but who practices institutional criticism of the artists? What happens when -- for commercial reasons, personal idiosynchrasy or strategy -- an artist goes against the public interest? One o fthe things that could happen is a Triple Candie exhibition. On entering you may think you have come across a forgers' collective. But that would be a false impression.


Notes courtesy of Triple Candie:

[1] Hammons' work was the subject of an authorized survey in 1991 at PS1: Contemporary Art Center, New York




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