A mental space for Gonzalez-Torres fortune cookies


A short conversation with Belgian art collector Wilfried Cooreman

Together with David Zwirner, the Andrea Rosen Gallery has initiated a project for which they’ve invited a group of one thousand people to participate in a ‘living exhibition’; the exhibition entails the participants showing the work ‘Untitled’ (Fortune Cookie Corner, 1990) by Felix Gonzalez-Torres in a location of their choice, be it their home, an art institution, or a public space. The exhibition recognizes this unique moment in history and reflects the ever-relevant and flexible nature of the work of Felix Gonzalez-Torres. Like many of Gonzalez-Torres’s works, ‘Untitled’ (Fortune Cookie Corner) addresses the capacity for immortality through regeneration, heightened by the experience of loss within these works.

This is the first object in Gonzalez-Torres’s iconographic cycle titled Candy, in which a unifying feature of the artworks is the interaction of public and private relationships. It is also the only work in the series made not of brightly wrapped pieces of candy, but of fortune cookies containing a slip of paper on which is written an aphorism or vague prophecy.

Each of the participants in the Andrea Rosen/Zwirner project received instructions on how to install the work (a loan from a private collection), as well as guidance on how many cookies are needed (ranging from 240 to 1000). It is up to the participant to decide on the location of the exhibit and the configuration of the pile of cookies. Through June 14, viewers are invited to take a cookie from the pile, but it is the responsibility of the participating exhibitor to replenish the cookies to their original number. The presentation will end on July 5, at which point any remaining fortune cookies will no longer be ‘the work’.

One of the project participants include Belgian art collectors Wilfried Cooreman and Yannicke De Smedt.

There are about 1000 people around the globe who were invited to install ‘Untitled’ (Fortune Cookie Corner) by Felix Gonzalez-Torres. Why did you decide to become part of this project/exhibition and the way in which Gonzalez-Torres’s work manifests within today's context? What does it mean to you?

I decided to become part of the project because I was accepted and invited.

A piece consisting of an endless pile of fortune cookies that can be taken away and consumed by viewers – the work evokes loss and a sense of immortality.

Andrea Rosen says: ‘We are all thinking about virtual experiences and how disconnected we all feel virtually, and yet Felix’s work is something that can physically happen. It can be a physical experience that can connect us all’.

The project reminded me immediately of the exhibition curated in 1986 by the late Jan Hoet, Chambres d’Amis. It was a unique exhibition whereby the art was not shown in a museum building – 51 works of contemporary art were introduced into private houses in Ghent’s inner city.

Secondly, we had met and spoken to Felix Gonzalez-Torres in March 1991 in Brussels. He left an unforgettable impression and his work touched us emotionally. We had the feeling that the work he was showing was about us, about the viewer. We followed quite a number of FGT’s exhibitions in Europe.

The exhibition is a fantastic idea, and completely in line with Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s work. These days, exhibitions are more part of the entertainment industry, hastily put together, often one-dimensional and purely informative. An exhibition should be more: a manner of thinking about art in a visualized form. Our house (the location or ‘place’ of the piece) is now a ‘mental space’ for the fortune cookies.

The global exhibition has an original spatial context. It is the unmistakable relationship between these 1000 ‘places’ and installations that can be read as details of a greater totality, which make the world greater than it is as it is split up into numerous viewpoints.

The world is changing now. The question is – how will it have changed... and is it even capable of undergoing fundamental change? Since the start of the industrial revolution, the world has largely followed a path of aggressive capitalism. Priorities have been production and technological advancements, work, income, prosperity, and an incessant race for competitive advantage – all of which constitute a self-reinforcing feedback loop. Will this shock to the system be strong enough to cause a paradigm shift in human values?

This is a difficult question. Has the financial crisis of 2008 changed anything?

The priority now for most countries is the economy. Obviously, the economy is important; without an economy we can’t provide for a European social system of solidarity, healthcare… It’s about time that investments in the green economy are finally taking place and being given the highest priority.

I can only hope that this shock will make people think about the long-term future.

What is the role of the art collector in the post-pandemic era we are facing now?

I think that the role of the art collector is not different from the role of all humans living on this one planet.

Globalization created a different system. We can question the necessity of the worldwide fairs. Why do we need to fly to all of these places? Will there be a self-regulatory system?

Big galleries have a cushion and will survive, as will the trumpeted artists.

As artists are suffering and we always acquired from young artists, we still continue to support these artists at the beginning of their careers.

Do you have a vision of what the future art scene will look like? What will be the main shifts and to which direction will they shift?

We are now at the beginning of June 2020, and the last event we visited was Mudam in Luxemburg, for a talk with Wade Guyton. We were also at the opening day of Tefaf in Maastricht. The next day Tefaf closed because someone was infected.

The art world had become an industry. Each city created a biennial or an art fair, was opening a new institute or museum, or was organizing a blockbuster exhibition. This was causing a lot of traveling and polluting.

Jan Vercruysse created a poster in 2006 in which he nominated 101 cities and small villages as future candidates for biennials in Belgium. This was his comment on the growing business.

Since the beginning of March 2020, the Covid-19 virus has changed our lives. Art fairs, biennials, museum visits and gallery visits stopped and were postponed. We received an overkill of videos, viewing rooms. Everybody is trying to create online platforms. Looking at an artwork on the internet is not the same as looking at a work in real life.

Young galleries will suffer from the situation if they have no buffer to overcome a period of some months. 45% of business is done at fairs – what if nobody wants to travel anymore? Galleries are struggling to pay their huge rents.

Artists will suffer from this situation.

Even with a medicine, things will not return to what it was before.

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