Oftentimes, in art galleries, the question of whether an object is an artwork leaves onlookers in a pickle. In the case of one show in New Zealand, the object in question actually is a pickle.
For the exhibition, Australian artist Matthew Griffin plucked a pickle from a McDonald’s cheeseburger and slapped it to the ceiling of the gallery. The piece is just the size of a quarter but comes with a price tag worth much more: NZ$10,000 ($6,200).
The artwork, simply called Pickle, is on view now at Auckland’s Michael Lett Gallery in group show presented by Griffin’s dealers, Fine Arts Sydney.
Drawing on a long history of mordant ready-mades, from Marcel Duchamp’s 1917 Fountain urinal to the $120,000 banana Maurizio Cattelan taped to the wall of an Art Basel Miami booth in 2019, Griffin’s Pickle is meant to stoke conversations about “the way value and meaning is generated between people,” Fine Arts Sydney director Ryan Moore told the Guardian.
“Generally speaking, artists aren’t the ones deciding whether something is art is not,” the director said. “Whether something is valuable and meaningful as artwork is the way that we collectively, as a society choose to use it or talk about it.”
The pickle, explained Moore, adheres to the ceiling thanks to its own residual burger sauce.
“As much as this looks like a pickle attached to the ceiling—and there is no artifice there, that is exactly what it is—there is something in the encounter with that as a sculpture or a sculptural gesture,” Moore added.
The lucky buyer of Griffin’s artwork won’t be given the exact pickle, but rather instructions for how to recreate the artwork in their own space—a gesture that elevates the object beyond those that could be found on any McDonald’s ceiling.
“It’s not about the virtuosity of the artist standing there in the gallery throwing it to the ceiling,” Moore concluded. “How it gets there doesn’t matter, as long as someone takes it out of the burger and flicks it on to the ceiling.
“The gesture is so pure, so joyful—that is what makes it so good.”