On eBay right now, you can buy a piece of tape used to mark the position of the visitors’ chair from Marina Abramović’s epic 2010 performance at the Museum of Modern Art. That might strike you as a fairly minute and extreme bit of fan ephemera, which it may very well be. But it’s also an artwork by Man Bartlett.
“Where a chair was present” (clever! Abramović’s show was called The Artist Is Present) is actually the title of the work being sold, and technically it’s a collage, albeit one that Bartlett made by sticking the spike tape on a piece of paper and signing the back. “It’s somewhere in between appropriation and shenanigans,” he told Hyperallergic. It might also be somewhere between hero worship and art — or maybe it’s tribute art, like Shepherd Fairey’s Obama “Hope” poster, minus the political aim.
As for the back story, Bartlett was at MoMA on the day Marina’s exhibition and accompanying performance ended. “I saw them take the chairs away, and I looked on the floor and I happened to be standing right next to the marks. I just thought it was too funny not to take the tape as a sort of memento. I never got to actually sit across from Marina. I went one day and waited in line all day and I was next to go, but I never got to sit across from her. It was my way of taking something from the show,” he explained.
He made the collage right afterwards, but after two years of it sitting on a desk in his studio, he decided he wanted to clean house and get rid of it. “I kind of got tired of seeing it,” he said. “It’s nothing against Marina Abramović, but I’m kind of not in that stage anymore, and I know she’s got such a devoted fan base.”
Many of us in the art world go through a Marina Abramović phase. And for many of us, eventually, that phase must pass.
As if to emphasize the absurdity of the project, bidding for the work started at a penny; however, in the four hours it’s possibly taken people to realize what’s going on here, the price has risen to $10.50. “I am curious about how we value these objects, how something is given value and how it’s appreciated from a cultural standpoint but then also from a market standpoint,” Bartlett said. Inside sources tell us the top bid is currently set at $12, but the next two and half days will tell where it ends up.