Frieze rocks: Artist Nikita Gale to create electric guitar installation for BMW commission

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The BMW Lounge at Frieze London this year (12-16 October) will rock to the sounds of electric guitars co-created by Nikita Gale. For this year’s BMW Open Work commission, the Los Angeles-based artist will unveil a sculptural installation comprising a series of guitars conceived and developed in partnership with BMW i7 designers. The work will be “activated by live performances in the space”, says a project statement.

Gale’s project, known as 63/22, highlights how the Gibson Firebird, an iconic electric guitar, was created by the US car designer Ray Dietrich, examining how design aspects overlap between different technologies. “Gale’s project for BMW Open Work 2022 will explore the relationship between technologies of speed and technologies of sound, reinforcing Frieze and BMW’s commitment to art and music,” says the commission curator Attilia Fattori Franchini in a statement.

Installation view, Nikita Gale’s Made in LA 2018, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles.

Photo: Jeff McLane

Gale studied anthropology and archaeology at Yale University; she states on her website that she “employs objects and materials like barricades, concrete, microphone stands, and spotlights to address the ways in which space and sound are politicised”. Her exhibition Riff Fatigue at Artist Curated Projects in Los Angeles in 2017 approached “the electric guitar and its role in the history of rock music as the point of departure for a meditation on histories of protest”, says an exhibition statement.

In an interview with Hyperallergic last year, Gale said: “I get a lot of inspiration from reading, listening to music, watching videos of Tina Turner performances and Prince guitar solos, and trying to maintain a practice of slowly reading the spaces I inhabit.” Her first solo exhibition in the UK is currently running at the Chisenhale Gallery in east London (In a Dream You Climb the Stairs, until 16 October).

Nikita Gale’s AUDIENCING presented as part of VW Sunday Sessions on February 21, 22, & 23, 2020 at MoMA PS1.

Image courtesy MoMA PS1. Photo by Maria Baranova

The Open Work initiative between BMW and Frieze brings together “art, design and technology in a pioneering multi-platform format”, say the organisers. The project is inspired by the Italian philosopher Umberto Eco who wrote an essay in 1962 called The Open Work, arguing that certain elements of a work of art need to be “completed” by the audience.

The first commission in 2017 was awarded to the New York-based artist Olivia Erlanger who worked with BMW technicians to create benches embedded with motion sensor and audio components. US choreographer Madeline Hollander’s Sunrise/Sunset piece (2021) consisted of recycled LED headlights from the BMW Group Recycling and Dismantling Centre.

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