As the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic keeps people at home and business closed, many galleries across the art world have made the pivot from in-person exhibitions to online viewing rooms (along with much debate about their efficacy and intent). One exhibition that is helping to put the emphasis back on the physical object is the latest show that Andrea Rosen and David Zwirner have collaborated on. “Untitled” (Fortune Cookie Corner),” a worldwide exhibition featuring multiple iterations of a work of the same name, offers viewers a chance to experience a piece by Cuban-born, American artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres, albeit in a unique way.
The piece, first created in 1990, is the first of the artist’s now-famous Candy series, which uses wrapped candy heaped in piles in various formations. This series, as well as his larger body of work, draws on larger issues of loss, time and immortality, topics that feel all too timely due to the current circumstances. In this ambitious and unconventional curatorial undertaking, Rosen asked 1,000 people from across the globe from inside and outside of the art world to participate in helping to activate this exhibition in a new way—namely, by creating a version the work in their home or workspace or any place that is safely accessible to them.
Each participant was sent an invitation containing information about the core elements of the work, as well as a set of guidelines and questions to consider. People were asked to source their own fortune cookies and install between 240 to 1,000 in total that would be placed in a pile in their homes. The parameters of where and how they are arranged are left up to the individual.
“Felix’s work is perhaps some of the only work that can literally, physically be experienced at this time because of all of the things that he thought about, [particularly] in terms of what is the core of an object, what is the core of an experience? And that it doesn’t have to revolve around permanency or aggrandizing something in a singular form,” Andrea Rosen told Observer. Rosen explained that she wanted to put emphasis back on the physical aspects of viewing art during a time when people are “overtaxed and under-stimulated by digital presentations.” Rosen curated the project and is also president of the Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation.
Because of the way Gonzalez-Torres’ work functions, it is not confined in the same way other artists work is. Due to its open-endlessness, which is expressly laid out in the invitation that participant receives, it can be installed in more than one place at a time, giving it the chance to have multiple interpretations and interactions. Over the course of the six week show, Rosen also requested that participants document the installation to capture its evolution. Additionally, halfway through, people have been asked to replenish the cookies to the total number they started with.
Since the show’s debut on Monday, there have been very ingenious installations of the work. Some participants include Guggenheim curator Nancy Spector, collector Darryl de Prez and Soho House Hong Kong.
In Spector’s version of Gonzalez-Torres’ piece she placed the cookies in a portable lending library space near the home she is currently renting in Maine with the following text: “Felix Gonzalez-Torres was the most generous of artists, creating work that gave itself to the public with the possibility of being endlessly regenerated. Yet, his sculptural spills of candy and stacks of printed paper in their depletion over time, rehearse the loss that is inevitable in life. Originally produced during the AIDS crisis, his work resonates with particular poignancy today as we all face the uncertainty of COVID-19.”
Another version was installed in a train station in Seoul, South Korea, and was gone within an hour. And another iteration utilizes a newspaper vending machine that has been refashioned to house the cookies, complete with a camera to capture people’s reactions as they take one.
The exhibition is helping to create a breakdown between the personal and the performative and is creating a larger sense of time and space for its participants. Each piece will change over the course of the exhibition and is being captured through digital documentation.
Ultimately, this exhibition invites people to think more deeply about the world around them, their responsibility in it, and how generosity and the human condition can be transformed through these types of interventions. It challenges people to think through larger systems of access and the creation of barriers in society—questions that are particularly timely, given how Gonzalez-Torres probed the concept of being or feeling isolated, along with his larger social commentary on the AIDS crisis, which also sadly claimed his life in 1996.
At the height of social isolation, when interacting with other people and art is occurring in limited forms, this show of Gonzalez-Torres’ work is helping people feel connected in a new way. Untitled (Fortune Cookie Corner) is about hope and possibility and it is helping people to feel a part of something that is larger than themselves through a shared experience.
“People want to be connected, they want to be engaged.I think if you have the opportunity, especially at this moment, to realize that you are part of something meaningful, it’s inspiring and I think that’s really at the base of Felix’s work: using of this sense of generosity to both engage and move people to involvement,” said Rosen.
“Untitled” (Fortune Cookie Corner)” is on view until July 5. Viewers are encouraged to follow the hashtag #fgtexhibition to view the work and its progression on Instagram as well as viewing both Andrea Rosen’s website and David Zwirner’s website.