Normally one would think these two concepts are mutually exclusive, myself included, but curator and conceptual artist Adam Parker Smith proved otherwise in his most recent show "Thanks," at my gallery, Lu Magnus, in the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
Viewers entered the exhibition space to find the stolen works of 77 artists, displayed on tables akin to an archaeological dig or evidence table. From sketches to finished pieces, and in some cases artifacts of the art-making process, the collection of works gave viewers the privilege of bearing witness to and experiencing the intimacy of Adam's relationship with each of the artists.
Over the course of the show, I received quite a few letters and responses from folks questioning the method, but it speaks volumes that all the artists he visited and successfully stole an object from (77 out of 90 attempts) said yes to participating in "Thanks." The untold story lies in how Adam's theft of the work of his friends and valued members of his creative circle served to bring the community together.
One visitor pointed out that she felt the show was beautiful because it represents the spirit of our generation who are constantly sharing images and ideas with one another. This visitor arrived with a large tour group and hit the nail on the head right at the close of the show. It struck a chord with the Lu Magnus team, because that is the dream we have for our space -- to bring community together and provide an incubator for new ideas and cross-collaborations.
When I asked Adam about his thoughts on friendship and community, he seemed humbled by the whole experience. All the artists he took from agreed to be in the show, and in doing so agreed to look vulnerable and to be vulnerable. He reflected on the meaning of friendship "to let people on the inside" and felt it was truly a bonding experience. I'm grateful to say, myself included -- as much as we appreciate our artists' process, as gallerists, we rarely get to be a part of that process.
Melena Ryzik of NYTimes got to witness this first hand when she went undercover with him to Aaron Williams' studio and snatched a collage. Though I remain envious of her experience, I will be forever grateful that she shared it with us all in her article -- Sticky Fingers Make the Show.
Many of the artists in the show have thanked me for enabling and hosting "Thanks," highlighting the thriving artistic community we all feel a part of in this city. On a fun side note, artist Jason Peters took it upon himself to order t-shirts for all the artists. It says on the front "ADAM STOLE MY ART" and on the back "THANKS FU*KER." I can thank Adam for opening his world to us, and in doing so memorializing this place and time for emerging artists in NYC.
Group photo of contributing artists in Thanks, curated by Adam Parker Smith