May the Unnoticed Remain So

The Gagosian Doesn’t Want you to See this Image.

There is a big silver-grey painting, or perhaps a piece of metal, that could be mistaken for a carpet covering the back wall. There is a pink walrus on a low plinth. There is a scrap metal sculpture on a pedestal around the corner. Two women are cleaning the art fair booth. One, on the right, holds a vacuum cleaner hose and looks with a faint smile at her colleague who is on her hands and knees cleaning and invisible spot on the grey floor.

Though the gallery had initially consented to their participation in a photo shoot by DIS Magazine, Gagosian Gallery subsequently refused to permit the showing of this image in the context of the Frieze Art Fair. This prompts us to question what the motivation for this act of censorship, never explained, really was. What follows is speculation:

Since the Gallery chose this particular triangulation of pink walrus, scrap metal assemblage and silver carpet/painting/metal sheet, we can assume that it was not the reproduction of this constellation of things that proved contestatory in the eyes of the most profitable gallery in the world.

If not those three, we will have to assume there was something about the two women that proved undesirable for Gagosian. Was it their mere presence, as people in an environment of objects, that provoked their banishment? Or was it their presence as woman, women of color to be precise? Or was it their occupation as cleaners that was so upsetting? Or was it, finally, some combination of all three?

The art market is an object world. The buyer is presented with white walls and objects as clean as if they emerged out of those very surfaces. But this walrus, silver hung square and metal heap would not be as desired without certain unseen, but nevertheless crucial people:

The “people” the art market favors thinking about is the lone artist toiling in his studio. The artists assistants that typically contribute to the production of artworks with Gagosian price tags are much less favorably thought of–or rather, they are not thought of at all. Then there is the dealer’s side of things. A private equity art aficionado decides to buy art particularly when it is sold by Larry Gagosian. This is why the man’s name is on the door and why it is less interesting to think of the 150+ staffers of Gagosian Gallery (let us also, as an aside, assume that it was not Larry Gagosian himself who made this particular judgment call, but rather one of his minions who–perhaps fearing reprisal from the boss or a potential drop in prestige and, subsequently, sales prices–was behind this specific act of iconoclasm.)

Far behind the artists assistants and the dealer’s minions are a slew of people who are employed to keep up appearances and therefore must remain especially invisible. Should they finally be seen, after all, buyers risk remembering that this is just a shopping mall like any other; that unwanted objects always gather dust after a while; that people earning minimum wage do in fact interact with priceless things; that people are not always white like gallery walls; and that walruses are not in fact ever pink.

See more from

Recent Posts


In the Flesh Part l: Subliminal Substances features artists whose work utilizes inorganic ingestible elements found in food, medicines, cosmetics and technological devices. Some of these consumable and non-consumable products emit chemicals and radioactivity that our bodies absorb through the skin. Inorganic ingestibles include, but are not limited to, GMOs, pathogens, hormones, pesticides, steroids, preservatives, radiation and plastics. Such substances seep into our bodies more and more consistently, while the term “organic” is applied liberally… [read more »]

Glaze | Earthly

“Glaze describes the often shiny, wear-protective layer of oxide formed when two metals (or a metal and ceramic) are slid against each other at high temperature in an oxygen-containing atmosphere.” So says North Carolina electronics duo Earthly regarding the literal definition of “Glaze,” a track from their debut LP, Days. Released this summer via the Noumenal Loom, the album scrambles iridescent textures and wobbly rhythms through various states of flux. Eno Swinnen conceived the video… [read more »]

I Would Prefer Not to Include My Name | Eva and Franco Mattes

The task of a content moderator is to decide what content on an online platform is permitted to stay and what should be removed. Sometimes the guidelines are clear, e.g. remove all images of Al Qaeda, while other times it’s a question of subjective judgement whether or not the content is inappropriate. Eva and Franco Mattes are the artists behind the exhibition I Would Prefer Not to Include My Name, part of a larger project… [read more »]

Premiere | “Pump Fake” by vyle

A reference to Michael Jordan’s famous technique and also a synonym for indecision, this collaboration with producers Shy Guy and Thomas Welch, entitled “Pump Fake”, is vyle’s take on “what a rapper is” vs. “what a rapper is expected to be”, enveloped in postmodern slang and rap-centric jewels. “Pump Fake” is the first single from vyle’s upcoming experiential album, “A Ü T O/M Ö T O R”. Both words from the title refer to a car.… [read more »]

Mommy | Maggie Lee

July 20, 2012 — Maggie Lee tagged you in a photo. I remember receiving the notification on Facebook. I was on my way to see The Dark Knight Rises—it was it’s opening day—but the photo brought me back to the night before. Maggie’s caption above the photo on my timeline read: “finger snap, half man half woman, steven king or ann rice?, 2 step (in the back), simple times, park angel thong reptilian skirt, ghost… [read more »]

Arachne | Dorothy Howard

Inspired by the myth of Arachne, Dorothy Howard‘s recently launched eponymous webzine co-designed with André Fincanto explores the analogy of the internet network with a spider’s web (one that Dorothy Howard mentions started at the beginning of the internet when Tim Berners-Lee set the name “the world wide web” in 1989; he later wrote ‘Weaving the Web‘). Arachne explores various comparisons and intersections between mythology and the internet. I chatted with Dorothy about digital labour,… [read more »]

No Need to Hunt | We Just Wait for the Roadkill

Alexander Endrullat, Burkhard Beschow, Camilla Steinum, Dorota Gaweda & Eglé Kulbokaité, Jake Kent, Kai Hügel, Michele Gabriele Curated by: Paul Barsch It was not meant as a statement. Not at all. They just took it, mixed it, altered and extended it. They did not even care. Artifacts. Cultural objects. De facto found footage. Natural materials. … No hierarchy but full potential. Total opennesssssssss Ssssssssssssssssssss ssssssssssss ssssss A thrilling, raspy scream that sounds exactly like a… [read more »]

abduct | Xavier Cha

As a part of the commission programme for Frieze Film 2015 which will be screened at Frieze London and air on BBC’s national Channel 4, Xavier Cha presents abduct, a cinematic study of performative self-estrangement in the virtual age. Xavier Cha’s conceptually-driven practice spans dance, video, text and audio, but central to her work is the expanded field of performance. Since graduating from UCLA in 2004, she has shown live and video work across the… [read more »]

ZHALA: Religious Rave and Cosmic Pop for MOMENTUM 8

“I try to create a space in which I can dress like Kim Kardashian and she can dress like me.” Zhala is a conceptual musician, artist and performer of Kurdish descent, born and raised in Stockholm, Sweden. She is one of the founding members of the LGBT club Donna Scam in Stockholm, and the first and so far the only artist signing to Robyn’s Konichiwa Records. Zhala’s music consists of haunting rhythms and evocative melodies… [read more »]

Frieze Live | Passive Aggressive #3

The British artist duo Edward Thomasson & Lucy Beech reveal the violence of everyday performativity with their last installment of the non-theatrical 3-part series Passive Aggressive. The piece accentuates how this performativity is not just a gendered diagnostic of the contemporary Corporate Female navigating her way through the aggression of the work-place, but a constructive mode of life. At 2:45 PM daily during the fair in Regent’s Park, a group of six women in professional… [read more »]