The Real Failure Desk


Early last month, Auxiliary Projects housed William Powhida for a discussion about art’s place in daily life. “Can We Talk About Art?” followed the loose rule of not mentioning the inequities of the market, but still many couldn’t help seizing the opportunity to share their struggles.

Jennifer Dalton and Jennifer McCoy, the gallery’s curators, belong to a generation attempting to reestablish art’s practicality, and they’re doing this by organizing pseudo-political actions that critique art world backwardness. Considering such a context, the fact that Dalton and McCoy are collaborating on a gallery is an artistic act in the line of relational aesthetics as much as it is a political act advocating formal ambiguity as cooperative with current infrastructure.

By pricing artworks affordably, the gallery prioritizes a dependable wage before dealing with overhead, and directs value toward artists instead of products. As art, the collaboration amounts to a trompe l’oeil comparable to the miniature white cube Dalton and Powhida constructed for their 2011 piece titled, “The Failure Desk” in that it antagonizes aesthetic traditions driven by free-market commodification, and reflexively transforms what’s intimidating about galleries into a forum for sharing ideas. But as real life, the gallery and its standards reconcile a backlog of art theory with today’s new kind of economy, and help to legitimize being an artist as a viable career path.

The boutique gallery perfectly integrated itself within the artistic form necessary for fostering discourse during “Can We Talk About Art?” and by doing so concretely set the standard for how the commercial art world can incorporate contemporary theory.


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