This week in really boring summer stories with traction, New York Magazine profiles collector and conceptual food artist Jennifer Rubell. The feature tells readers pretty much what they would expect: eating fancy dinners with famous people as a child influenced her interest in making work for them. It was scary, of course, to become a food artist — her parents Mera and Don know a lot about collecting and have frequently mentioned they couldn’t be friends with artists whose work they didn’t like — but thankfully, their cold, seasoned eyes fell favorably upon their child.
So what’s she done that’s earned such attention? Here’s a list:
- Every year during Art Basel Miami she produces a breakfast for collectors at her parent’s museum. In 2010, it was porridge in a derelict building that c-monster called totally overwrought. In 2007, it was 2000 pairs of latex gloves, hard-boiled eggs, croissants, and slices of bacon. c-monster’s evaluation? The Damien Hirst Award for Creepiest Buffet.
- Seriously no idea what to make of Performa’s opening banquet at Dia last 2009, and I wasn’t there so all I’ve got is reporting. Titled “Creation”, this Rubell dinner was a multiroom installation inspired by the first three chapters of Genesis. No waiters, make your own cocktails, and serve yourself ribs drenched in honey (Adam’s rib). In another room, the story continues: trees and fallen apples! Eve spoils everyone’s fun. Next thing you know everyone’s eating dessert: People dig through vats filled with icing sugar to find Viennese cookies. Seven Jacques Torres—chocolate mini-facsimiles of Jeff Koons's “Rabbit” were also in attendance, to be destroyed with hammers. It’s unclear if anyone ate the chocolate, but if they did they would have had to pick it up off the ground.
- Padded Cell was also presented at Performa 2010, a giant room with walls made of pink cotton candy. It’s Ann Hamilton without the fuchsia pigment. There’s some potential here, though it comes from a long line of pink cotton candy art. Every few years or so someone gets a machine and uses it at a non-profit opening. At least this stuff made some walls.
- I didn’t see the Brooklyn Museum benefit dinner she produced last year, either, but it sounds like a circus. In yet another serve-yourself affair, Rubell used the theme of “icons” to honor her favorite artists. A giant piÃ±ata Warhol head filled with Ding Dongs and Twinkies decorated the lobby, along with a table arranged with 150 roasted rabbits evoking Joseph Beuys's How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare. Also, the “drinking paintings”, a series of blank stretched canvases with a tap coming out of the surface. One dispensed dirty martinis, another gin-and-tonics, another white wine, and so on. They are supposed to reference Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings, though I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t be happy with such a gimmicky piece attached to his name.
- Finally: no one should draw inspiration from Dad joke artist Maurizio Cattelan. Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop them. Enter “Engagement”, a life-size figurine of Prince William, with the ring of his absent wife affixed to his arm. Niagara Falls tourists who have had their photos taken in that barrel heading over the falls will love this, provided no one tells them sculptor Daniel Druet made the statue. Of course, as Rubell is quick to point out, the heavy intellectual work — the conceit — was all her own. “Interaction is the thing that makes it a piece by me. And,” she says, laughing, “it was heavily interacted with.”
I’m not sure Ms. Rubell’s move towards non-perishable materials is a good one, but then again, I never thought my carrots *needed* to be nestled in a pedestal in order to enjoy a benefit dinner, so I’m not sure I’m a fan of a lot of that work either. But that’s not New York Magazine’s spin, which is superficially about how Jennifer Rubell made her way from extravagant dinner-party thrower to, well, extravagant dinner-party thrower. I guess we can look forward to talking more about her artier art though when her shows launch this year at Cal State—Fullerton, the Fondation Beyeler in Basel, Perry Rubenstein Gallery in L.A., Dallas Contemporary, and Performa 11 here in New York.