VIK MUNIZ (b. 1961) Almond Blossom, 2005

Top spin

Bonhams Magazine

Issue 42, Spring 2015

Page 60

Top spin

Bonhams Magazine

Issue 42, Spring 2015

Page 60

JIM DINE (b. 1935) The Family, 1960

Top spin

Bonhams Magazine

Issue 42, Spring 2015

Page 60

Will Brown talks to Dane Jensen about a ping pong tournament to be held in Los Angeles in conjunction with Bonhams' new contemporary sale

Q. Dane, can you tell me about the title you have chosen for your new sale at Bonhams Los Angeles?

A. Someone once told me, "If you can't think of a title, you don't know what your exhibition is about." The title we have chosen – Tell me what you want (what you really, really want) – is a reflection of the spirit which this auction embodies. The sale will be introduced by a series of events, and a preview party during which there will be a ping pong performance by two professional players on a table made by artist Ry Rocklen for his Trophy Modern series. It mirrors the competitive process of bidding, where a member of the audience tells an auctioneer what they want – and sometimes, quite emphatically so.

Q. Are you engaging with the idea of making the sale simultaneously an auction and exhibition?

A. This is an auction that exemplifies the location in which it is set. What makes Los Angeles a fascinating place is that it has created itself during the modern era. The development of contemporary art in LA, with artists such as Chris Burden, John Baldessari and Ed Ruscha, was based on a more experimental approach. With this in mind, we wanted a sale that felt more like a curated exhibition. So I put together a series of works ranging from the 1950s to the present, a timeline that is a reflection of Los Angeles; its tastes, wants and desires.

Q. What brought you to the work of Ry Rocklen initially?

A. I wanted to engage with the larger arts community in Los Angeles. Because auctions are a secondary market, we seldom interact as much with contemporary artists that are working right now. We wanted to change that. I have been circling around Ry's work for some time. I saw it in Miami where he had a great show, and also at the LA Contemporary Art Fair, so I was familiar already with Trophy Modern Series. He is someone we feel is about to breakthrough.

Q. How have you chosen the objects for the sale?

A. This comes from my own interests and curatorial background. I have always been interested in the space between the pragmatic object and the non-pragmatic artwork. If you look at the trends or interests around contemporary artwork, there is an emphasis on performance right now, and performative objects. The ping pong table itself is intriguing because of parallels that it draws between the auction and the game of ping pong. For example the device that one uses to bid at auction, is very similar to the paddle with which one plays ping pong. And auction is, at its core, a competition. One of the compelling things about Ry's Trophy Modern series, is that a trophy is essentially an object purely for display, so what Ry did is to literally play upon the symbol of winning a competition and make it into something which it wasn't really intended to be: a usable object.

Will Brown is a curator and writer at the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design.

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