In the midst of a global pandemic, the future can feel unpredictable and uncertain. The shift towards social distancing and our immersion into digital spaces due to COVID has forced the global community to reconsider how we communicate and interact with one another. Museums and galleries are adapting to this new normal through online exhibitions as opposed to in-person. While this might seem to be a limitation for curation, Andrea Rosen embraced this digital space as a way to connect a global community by presenting a live exhibition of Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ “Untitled” (Fortune Cookie Corner) on the gallery website. With this exhibition, Rosen utilized this global, online platform to discuss the nuances of community in public and private spaces that Torres’ explored in his work.
Feliz Gonzalez-Torres was a renowned conceptual artist known for his sculptural installations that challenge traditional art spaces. Torres was born in Guáimaro, Cuba, in 1957 and earned his BFA in photography from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, in 1983. As an openly gay man who died from an AIDS-related illness, Torres created work that addresses the intersection of public and private life and his need for cultural activism. He used simple, everyday objects and an accessible visual language to explore issues relating to love, loss, and sexuality.
Many of these sculptures involve wrapped candies or other objects assembled into a pile in a corner or spread over a floor. One of his most well-known candy works, “Untitled” (Portrait of Ross in L.A.), consists of 175 pounds of brightly wrapped candies placed in a corner of a room.
This number represented the ideal body weight of his partner when he was healthy, before he died of an AIDS-related illness in 1991. With these installations, the audience is invited to grab the candy and eat it, thus engaging with a body that was stigmatized by a homophobic culture. Furthermore, Gonzalez-Torres asks the viewer to “defy the convention of art’s otherworldly preciousness” by touching and consuming the work. These piles are repeatedly replenished to form a nearly endless supply. When institutions put Torres’ work on display, there are guidelines laid out for how they should show the work, including this replenishment as well as the size/weight of the pile. In this way, Torres forces the art institutions to partake in his process in an active way as opposed to simply presenting a discrete, static work of art.
With her live exhibition of Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ “Untitled” (Fortune Cookie Corner), Rosen extends this process by inviting 1000 people to participate to realize the project, with nearly 400 participants actually executing it around the world. Like much of Torres’ work, the guidelines for manifestation were clear yet open, allowing for individual interpretations from the participants. These participants were required to display between 240 and 1000 fortune cookies “in a pile” and allow individuals to take pieces from the work. Similar to Torres’ “Untitled” (Portrait of Ross in L.A.), these piles would be replenished, though only once throughout the exhibition. With the show going from May 25 to July 5, each participant was required to fully replenish their pile on June 14; no earlier, no later. After July 5, the exhibition was over and any leftover fortune cookies were no longer considered part of the piece. These participants were also asked to document their iteration of the work as well as other compelling and relevant information, such as the installation process.
In the end, this process was published on the Andrea Rosen Gallery website and consisted of many different participants’ executions of the work. While the virtual exhibition is how most individuals will view the work, the website mostly serves as a documentation of this entire physical process as opposed to being the artwork itself. The online gallery displays images labeled with the location of origin. Once clicked, you are able to explore more about that specific manifestation of the work. When clicking through the gallery, it is clear that some participants shared more (and different) information than others. For example, Cindy and Howard Rachofsky from Dallas, Texas, submitted four photographs from June 2, while another participant, Michael Seiwert from Hamburg, Germany, submitted multiple photos and social media posts between May 25 and July 5.
Although some experienced the work via social media, the multitudinous ways that participants executed the work is even more clear when exploring the images in the online gallery. Like many of Torres’ pieces, the individual interpretations are widespread and varied. The piles of fortune cookies were displayed in houses, airports, restaurants, streets, and even on the beach.
They were on the floor, on tables, in clear tubs, in baskets, and in planter boxes. From South Korea to Portugal, these unique iterations of (Fortune Cookie Corner) framed the work in divergent ways, yet also assert a sense of global community, which was a key part of this exhibition for Rosen.
This subversion of the traditional art space is a fascinating concept that Torres embraced with his pieces and that Rosen attempts to continue in her curatorial manifestation of the work. By creating an experience that is simultaneously physical and digital, as well as local and global, Rosen challenges the necessity of a singular site for collaborative artwork and exhibitions. With this online exhibition, in which each participant was required to get the materials and create the pile themselves, Rosen and hundreds of collaborators created an exhibition that occurred all over the globe all at the same time. Not only would this be impossible in a single, physical space, but in this time of social distance it provided a sense of being together while apart. Rosen brought together many divergent spaces to form a new type of art gallery: one that is not apart from the everyday, but of it. And, through this material, wishes us all good fortune.
This digital documentation of Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ (Fortune Cookie Corner), 1990, is available online on the Andrea Rosen Gallery website. While the show lasted from May 25 to July 5, 2020, the gallery of images is still accessible as a record of the artwork. The website states that this list is still growing as more and more images come in from the nearly 400 participants.
Visit www.andrearosengallery.com/fcc-selected-documentation to view this exhibition.
Rosen, Andrea. “FCC Selected Documentation.” The Andrea Rosen Gallery. www.andrearosengallery.com/fcc-selected-documentation
The Guggenheim Museum. “Felix Gonzalez-Torres.”