Tip of The Day: Don’t Steal Gavin Brown’s Car

by Paddy Johnson on March 23, 2011 · 35 comments Opinion

Gavin Brown's car

By now most of you have probably read the New York Magazine story about how artists Patricia Silva and Eric Clinton Anderson mistakenly mistook dealer Gavin Brown‘s car for a relational aesthetics piece and took it for a joy ride. While out they posted pictures of Brown’s parking tickets on critic Jerry Saltz’s facebook page.

This seems an unusual misunderstanding to me, but Patricia Silva and Eric Clinton Anderson seem genuine about their claim that this was the case. Still, for two artists who lead a dealer to believe his car had been stolen, you’d think there’d be an apology online somewhere. I see a lot of gleeful posting about what a funny mistake it was, but going through Jerry Saltz’ facebook page and his post, I’m at a loss to find the words “I’m sorry”.  Maybe I’ve missed it, but if I were in their position I’d make sure my apology was front and center the hopes of curtailing the perception of assholery. Certainly, I see very little respect for Brown’s privacy by nearly everyone involved what with pictures of his parking tickets now scattered around the internet.

Needless to say, I’m not surprised Brown left the following comment on NYMag two days ago:

“Dear Eric and Patricia.
You took my car. I am happy for you on so many levels, but don’t disguise it as anything other than a half-assed gesture. I’m sure the act probably had some stale thrill of transgression. but please believe me, without your self- promoting twittering and FBing to the Saltz page no one would have given a flying f**k about it. Please, you are human beings – express yourselves through yourselves. You will be dead soon. Drive my car – drive
it back – then leave it at that.
Is this sad excuse for self promotion and self-definition what you wish to leave for future generations? I quote you as you exited the car: “We thought it was part of the interactivity.” Is this
Disney? And as for the rest of the digi-witterers – no more mentions of “Relational Aesthetics” or ‘RA’ or whatever you need to call it… Leave that to the librarians, accountants, and score keepers. Its art. It has no name – just like the void, no name. Do you think that Donald Judd had ‘Minimalist’ on his drivers-license? Your incessant babble is deafening, fearful, and boring. Please cease.”


Carolina A. Miranda March 23, 2011 at 8:27 pm

Does this mean that the time I snuck my dad’s car out before getting my license can be considered a work of relational aesthetics?

Mark Nikolewski March 23, 2011 at 9:47 pm


Will Brand March 23, 2011 at 10:56 pm

Paddy, your titling skills are on the wane again! Clearly, this should have been “Gavin Brown to Patricia Silva/Eric Clinton Anderson: ‘You will be dead soon.'”

Anonymous March 23, 2011 at 11:38 pm

Yeah but you can’t really chastise people for acting like assholes with a title like that. Granted that’s rarely stopped me before but who knows – maybe I’m turning over a new leaf.

Anonymous March 23, 2011 at 11:27 pm

I saw that comment from Brown and was wondering if it’s verifiable that it’s actually him…

Anonymous March 23, 2011 at 11:35 pm

Jerry Saltz said it was from him and I figured he would know. It’s a little on the raving side but fair enough really. I would be pissed if I were him.

Anonymous March 23, 2011 at 11:48 pm

Right on. I’d be pissed too! Though to be honest I did find it surprising that a car was left/parked *in* the gallery, unattended, with keys in the ignition. It doesn’t make it not stealing, but, yeah. I mean, we’re still in NYC. If Brown wants to press charges that’s one thing, otherwise the pair will certainly continue to ride the wave…

Anonymous March 23, 2011 at 11:50 pm

P.S. Posting photos of parking tix was dickish and over the privacy line, agreed there.

PatriciaSilva March 30, 2011 at 7:34 pm

What is dickish in my opinion is the details being totally taken out of context from Jerry’s private page. From there on, the facts have only become more distorted.

Robin March 24, 2011 at 4:23 pm

what the fuck is relational aesthetics? am i the only one who is confused?

Tom March 24, 2011 at 8:15 pm

It’s odd that you are jumping on the side of Gavin Brown here. So, these people are now the assholes/dorks and you are worried about protecting Brown’s privacy? I’m confused. No defense for the “librarians, accountants, and score keepers” and “digi-witterers” that keep this site afloat?

Tom March 24, 2011 at 10:59 pm

Really Paddy. Why are you patting Gavin Brown on the back in the face of your fellow nerds?

Anonymous March 24, 2011 at 11:12 pm

Gavin Brown had his car stolen. He’s not getting a pat on the back, but I think it’s fair to say he’s not been treated well. As for the “librarians, accountants, and score keepers” and “digi-witterers” – no, they don’t get a defense. A lot of babble on the internet is inane. Maybe we should try to keep it to a minimum for once.

Tom March 25, 2011 at 3:20 pm

He doesn’t say anything about the invasion of his privacy or not being treated well. You are taking that up. He was annoyed by their self-promotion. You are definitely pandering to the cooler elements here.

Anonymous March 25, 2011 at 4:27 pm

Right, but why is he annoyed with their self promotion? Is it because he doesn’t like people talking about his gallery? Doubtful.

And of course he’s not saying anything about the invasion of privacy and not being treaded well. Nobody likes playing the victim.

As for pandering, when I start reviewing Brown’s artists positively you can accuse me of this, but until then your statements are unfounded.

Meanwhile, Gavin Brown had his car stolen and neither one of the artists has publicly apologized. That’s pretty low.

David LaMorte March 25, 2011 at 1:21 am

I think Brown has a point, that maybe it isn’t productive to try to create something and name it at the same time.
The most annoying part about RA is that now I can’t stop wondering if Gavin Brown’s response is part of some other setup within the setup.

Saul March 25, 2011 at 2:54 am

I’m with Paddy on this.
Whatever you think about Gavin Brown, good, bad or otherwise, in the end he’s just a dude and by that I mean a citizen. Just like you and me he has the right to expect that people shouldn’t mess with his shit in the name of relational aesthetics. This act contained hostility towards an individual (it is hostile to steal someone’s car even if you return it). Suppose an artist decided to assault Brown in the name of art, would artistic intentionality absolve the aggression?

The art world is chock full of Crazy. We celebrate craziness in many forms: Crazy obsessive, crazy peculiar, crazy fashion, crazy perspective, crazy smarts. Is this the brand of crazy we really want to get behind?

James Alex March 25, 2011 at 12:28 pm

Oh yea, tee hee, an unfunny prank and complete act of assholism, 14 minutes and 50 seconds of 15 and counting. Yawn, these two are like television with credibility

Steven Kaplan March 25, 2011 at 5:10 pm

A simple apology is just good manners, and should have been offered by Pat/Eric. Of course, everyone profits from the “borrowed interest” of the car incident, Brown included, so perhaps he doth protest too much.

Meanwhile, Brown hardly minds it when Urs Fischer dug up the entire gallery floor in what was essentially a prank/exhibition. So objecting to the prank of a car theft seems a bit hypocritical.

As to relational aesthetics, if Brown wishes to object to the term at its point of origin, I can give him Nicolas Bourriaud’s email.

Anonymous March 25, 2011 at 5:52 pm

I see what you’re saying about Fischer, but Brown paid to have Fischer dig the hole so it’s not exactly the same thing. This was a misunderstanding that occurred because of the nature of the work shown, that was then exploited for publicity.

Anonymous March 25, 2011 at 5:54 pm

But yes, on some level everyone profits from this, and even if it’s a stupid mistake, it’s exactly the kind of mistake that would be made on Brown’s premises. For those reasons, it’s true that he can’t complain too much. It’s easy to see why him might have lost his temper though.

sally March 29, 2011 at 1:32 am

I think it’s pretty funny/sad that the artist opens up the gallery for anyone to do anything in and what happens is that the gallerist parks his car in it.

Patricia Silva March 30, 2011 at 7:56 pm

Why should the gallerist be excluded? I’ve read some people saying it’s disrespectful. I don’t think so, nor did I get that sense when I was there. Hey, it was effective. Fooled me!

Patricia Silva March 30, 2011 at 7:45 pm

I remember Eric saying “Sorry, dude” or something to that effect in person. As you can imagine, or at least we hope you can, we were totally taken aback by the whole thing. OH, and we weren’t posting things to Jerry’s page as we were driving. I’m the one with a Blackberry…while Eric was driving I took a foto of him and posted it to my private fb page and tweeted “Eric is driving the volvo”. All of these things can be checked in real time…at least one commenter here has access to my private fb page and can certainly see that. So, 1 tweet about participating in a show, 1 private fb post to my page. That was it. Much later that same night, totally incredulous, Eric and I talked about sharing the event with Jerry, since we both have met him separately before. So I posted it to Jerry’s PRIVATE facebook page, later that evening, recounting the events, and our utter surprise. We thought he would like it.

Did I think Jerry would read it? I hoped.
Did think people would scoop the story from Jerry and sensationalize it before he could write about it? Not really. Didn’t think it was that big of a deal. Funny as hell, but not really a big deal.

Anonymous March 30, 2011 at 8:05 pm

I will correct the post to reflect the proper chronology, though I don’t think posting the pictures while you were out or after you returned has any bearing on how many interprete what happened.

Also, Jerry Saltz has a public facebook page. Anyone can see anything you post on his wall and since his wall gets a lot of traffic you can expect a lot more people saw it then are on his friends or are commenting. You can’t *respond* unless you’re a friend but so long as you have a facebook account you can look at whatever he writes.

RT April 6, 2011 at 3:25 am

I will stand with pat and eric on this and can’t believe everyone wants them to apologize! I told a criminal lawyer this story the other night, and she said you cannot call this “stealing”. Unless the intent was to steal a car and deprive someone of their property willfully (and she knew all the facts that we all do) then it is not stealing at all. It may not be art, but it certainly isn’t stealing. Why is there no sense of humor about all this? gavin doesn’t want an apology! his reaction was ridiculous and over blown, and the show got much more publicity for it. What about all the artists who have actually defaced museums in protest, (like the oil spill at the tate) should they all apologize? Puhleeese! Jerry Saltz has a sense of humor, thank god!

Anonymous April 6, 2011 at 3:40 am

Oh jesus. Can’t they offer an apology first and then laugh about it later? No one said the car was stolen, only that the result of taking the car for a joy ride was that he believed it to be stolen.

And the artists who have defaced museums didn’t do so believing that the museums were offering up the property for their protests. It’s a completely different scenario.

RT April 6, 2011 at 3:55 am

the word STEAL is in the headline of this piece and why do you care about an apology? Shouldn’t you apologize to the artists for calling them assholes publicly? If we are talking about manners here, mind yours as well. Oh, you didnt actually call them assholes, right? you just said they were engaged in “assholery” Be nice to artists for gods sake, and if you want a real discussion here, why would you begin by insulting the artists- I think you should apologize to them, I am waiting.

the defacing museum comparison – oh, so if the artists took a ride in his car and said it was a protest (not ra) against an insider dealer who has too many artists in the new museum, would that be ok?

Anonymous April 6, 2011 at 4:10 am

The headline is not the content of the story, but it’s true that might mislead a lazy reader.

And you’re right, I didn’t call them assholes. I described this activity as assholian and I stand by that. They made a mistake and while it was a particularly stupid one, so be it. What is shitty about it is they did not apologize after making someone believe their car had been stolen and then joked about it at the dealers expense on a public facebook page. I don’t have to apologize for saying that’s demonstrating a lack of integrity. It does. I also don’t have to be nice to artists (read: soften my criticism) for a real discussion to occur.

Finally, I would not be okay with taking a ride in a dealers car as a protest. Why? Because the act itself isn’t communicating a point that furthers the activism. But again, this is a false equivalency.

RT April 6, 2011 at 4:20 am

you love to insult, don’t you? do you think that is an admirable quality, making you almost as cool as jerry? I am commenting on your page and you call me a lazy reader? what arrogance. here is another quote from you about stealing “Meanwhile, Gavin Brown had his car stolen and neither one of the artists has publicly apologized. That’s pretty low. ”
I am not asking you to soften your supposed crit here, and clearly this is not critical writng, you are accusing and asking for an apology, on your high horse. what are you miss manners? would an apology really make it all better or do you just want to humiliate the artists?

Tony Comstock April 13, 2011 at 12:35 am

Gavin should be grateful that people are focusing on the theft of his car instead of the quality of the exhibition

Anonymous March 30, 2011 at 8:09 pm

Like I said, his page is not private. Also, just because the details aren’t on his facebook page doesn’t mean they are taken out of context.

Anonymous April 6, 2011 at 4:40 am

I never called you a lazy reader, but yes the implication was there. That probably wasn’t necessary, so I apologize for that, but perhaps you can see why I was defensive. I don’t like being told I’m not interested in a discussion by the same person hurling abuse at me. Surely, you can see that the tone you’ve taken is sneering.

In any event, for me, an apology would make it better. Everyone makes mistakes, and the only way to correct them is by saying you’re sorry. It can smart a little in public, but it’s the only way to show you have real integrity. I guess that makes me a little moralistic but so be it. I can think of worse problems.

RT April 6, 2011 at 4:45 am

thank you, and sorry for sneering, i can agree to disagree here, warm wishes… keep it up 😉

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