One of the more imposing sculptural works in “Greater New York,” the quinquennial survey of Gotham-based artists that opened at PS1 Sunday, is Lutz Bacher’s Magic Mountain (2015), an unruly pile of spiky foam points, all colored a dusty gray-green, that takes over almost a whole gallery. And while the title may have been borrowed from a Thomas Mann novel (or, um, a Six Flags amusement park in L.A.), there may be a bit more in the way of appropriation going on here.
Over the weekend, Daniel Arsham, the artist known for collaborations with Pharrell and a coterie of famous admirers, posted an image to Instagram that would appear familiar to anyone who’s seen Bacher’s contribution to “Greater New York”: gray-green spiky foam points amassed in a pile. But these are from Arsham’s film Future Relic, and they do look quite a lot like Magic Mountain.
“#GreaterNewYork ?” Arsham wrote in the Instagram caption under his original foam set.
In an e-mail, Arsham told ARTnews that he had not been contacted by the artist, and he’s not sure how Bacher got her hands on foam cones that look so strikingly like his. But while the matching nature of the work has inflamed his fan base, the artist doesn’t seem to mind all that much.
“I was in Brazil for an exhibition of my work when PS1 opened,” he said in an e-mail. “The way that I found out about this work was that so many people were tagging me on images of it. I just thought it was a curious similarity.”
Arsham explained that this particular element of the set was seen most prominently on his social media feed, meaning that any sort of thievery would have required some serious Instagram stalking.
“Through research I discovered an Anechoic Chamber at Bell Labs that was slated for demolition—that is where the cones in my film came from,” Arsham wrote. “If they are indeed the same materials, there would have been no way for them to know it was my work unless they follow my Instagram and had seen the set design then.”
A representative at Greene Naftali, Bacher’s New York gallery, denied that the work had been influenced by Arsham in any way.
Of course, given Bacher’s history of toying with authorship and appropriation, this could all be a little joke that Arsham isn’t in on. And regardless of the intent, when it comes to imitation, Arsham seems like more of a “highest form of flattery” guy.
“If they are indeed the same exact objects, then all I can say is that the artist has a very good eye!” he said.
UPDATE 10/13/15 5:49 p.m.: This story has been updated with comments from Greene Naftali.