Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Prada. Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Prada. Shopping in Hong Kong consists of a mind-numbing loop of identical luxury brands. And much the same can be said of the global art market; a few superstar artists selling at eye-watering prices to a handful of exceptionally wealthy buyers.
For her work at Melbourne Now, Anastasia Klose has adopted the entrepreneurial approach of Hong Kong’s knock-off shops, which sell fake designer goods for a fraction of the retail price. The One Stop Knock-Off Shop is a fully-functioning merchandise store selling t-shirts emblazoned with art world mega brands - like Warhol, Monet and Duchamp (‘misspelt’ as Warshole, Monéy and Dachump).
The Knock-Off Shop isn't a cynical commentary on the decadent, celebrity-fuelled world of million-dollar art markets, but an entirely pragmatic and playful response to the exclusion of artists like Klose (well, all Australian artists really, let's be honest) from that world.
Why did you decide to do the Knock-Off Shop? Where did the concept come from?
This work at the NGV was inspired by my trip to Art Basel Hong Kong and looking at the art market close up, as well as the knock-off shops around the city at night. Around such wealth, I was sick of being poor. I wanted to make some money so I could stop having to count every single dollar. I thought this T shirt idea might be a way - lawd.
You’ve ranked Melbourne galleries from -$$$ to $$$ in terms of how much it costs an artist to exhibit there. What kind of criteria did you have?
I chose galleries that I think are iconic - or representative of something quite particular (aka known 'brands') - and that are also located in Melbourne (for Melbourne Now). In terms of dollars allocated, I was thinking about something an art writer said to me once, that ‘Tolarno was blue chip’ so I should be happy to be represented by them. I asked what he meant by 'blue chip' and he couldn't really explain clearly - there was no exact equation. But I guess he meant really established and expensive - like prime real estate or a luxury brand. So when I was designing these shirts, I was thinking of that sort of subconscious classification system that one employs when one thinks of a gallery. I was also thinking/guessing how much each gallery would be worth if you got everything in the stock room of each gallery and sold it on eBay.
It is interesting to me how perceptions of an artist’s worth depend upon who represents them. Galleries are like brands, just like clothing brands, and they bring with them a set of associations. For example, Anna Schwartz makes me think of expensive minimalist fashion, while Utopian Slumps makes me think of street fashion and clever appropriation. Like, Anna Schwartz is old money, but Utopian Slumps is the new 'edge' (sorry, I cringe using words like 'edge'). Neon Parc and Murray cater to both old and new - and are in the process of becoming $$$.
So I am saying there is no exact equation for the $$$, I just did what I thought felt right. It's not an exact science.
Where would you rank the NGV on that scale? (Given they gave you money to make the work but you also had to quit your job to do the installation, and I’m sure there are other pros/cons I don’t know about).
NGV wouldn't rank because they essentially buy art, despite the fact that they increase an artists' monetary and cultural value when they exhibit them. So they are a client of commercial art galleries and artist, yet also play a powerful role in commanding prices and creating value around an artist. However, since they have granted me the opportunity to make this work, so I would give them *****
You got representation with Tolarno Galleries (which you classify as a $$$ gallery, i.e. maximum profit potential) relatively soon after you finished at VCA. Isn’t that the golden ticket for an artist? Why are you here flogging t-shirts and mugs?
There are very few golden tickets - and although I definitely got one, in some ways I didn't. I struggle to make money from my art, and I certainly don't make a living from it. It is frustrating, because in art, there is not necessarily an upwards trajectory, as there would be in other careers if you work hard. There are few 'promotions' in the art scene, and your stock can drop in mid-career like nobody’s business. So while it is wonderful to be known and have a career and a public profile, it doesn't translate to dollars. And life, to a large degree, is about paying the bills and rent. Money is one of the main things that create opportunities for people. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. These are just observations.
So I am trying to increase my own value with every exhibition I make - every artist is, surely. And in this instance, I am going 'low-end' and creating affordable artist merchandise, sold by me to the general public (who would otherwise be intimidated by entering a commercial gallery to simply look at the art), I am broadening my audience and creating a stronger brand. Kind of like a politician handing out stickers with slogans on them. In fact, I see each exhibition as a new campaign.
Why go with a piracy model instead of, say, licensing the shit out of something (ala Murakami)? (Perhaps a dodgy, d-i-y piracy model is more in keeping with the Anastasia Klose brand?)
I like the idea of buying into a pre-existing brand and becoming a parasite or leach upon that brand. This feels much more natural to me (at this point). As in, I've always preferred rearranging the letters in a given word, rather than coming up with a new word. When you look at things a certain way, you might say that all the ideas and all the images are already out there, and it is just a matter of rearranging them. And actually, so many fashion labels are doing it (where does culture start? in the exchange and theft that occurs between high and low). Everyone is stealing from each other all the time; it's like a giant game of puns and witticisms that you can never keep up with (aka hermes - homies etc).
Do you find that the money conversation makes anyone uncomfortable? (e.g. other artists, gallerists, collectors, or even non-arts-insiders who've come to Melbourne Now)
Do you mean the $$$ on t shirts? It has made some people uncomfortable, but mainly myself as there is a part of me that is appalled at my audacity, and then having to account for that. But you know, in the end, this is tame, right?
In a conversation we had once, you said you ‘make art about the artist as a human being’. Would it be fair to say this work continues that tradition? The Knock-Off Shop seems not so much a commentary on the relationship between art and commerce, but rather commentary on the un-affordability of being an artist (in Australia at least).
Definitely! This work is exactly about being an artist in Australia, much more than anything else. I am not trying to make any huge moral point about the market or our place in it, I am simply describing and enacting something that is real.
>> Maura Edmond
>> Posted 9 January 2014
GO SEE IT:
22 November, 2013 - 23 March, 2014
National Gallery of Victoria
(The One Stop Knock-Off Shop is on level 3 at NGVi)