In an era of social distancing, can a fortune cookie help bring us together? That question, and several others, are at the core of a new exhibition by Andrea Rosen Gallery and David Zwirner of the late artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres.
For the show, which will run from May 25 to July 5, Rosen and Zwirner will present Gonzalez-Torres’s 1990 “Untitled” (Fortune Cookie Corner), a piece consisting of an endless pile of fortune cookies that can be taken away and consumed by viewers. “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,” dealer Andrea Rosen, who curated the exhibition, told ARTnews. “It can be a physical experience that can connect us all.”
As has often been the case with Gonzalez-Torres works, this one won’t be staged in a gallery—“Untitled” (Fortune Cookie Corner) will manifest in hundreds of locations across the globe. Other Gonzalez-Torres works, from his “Billboards series to his “Candy” works, have been presented in numerous locations at the same time, but none have ever been realized on such a large scale. The galleries, which jointly represent the late artist’s foundation, will invite 1,000 people around the world to each install the work in a place of their choosing. “We chose people who we thought would be interested in manifesting it and those who might not be,” Rosen said.
To execute the work, the participants will install between 240 and 1,000 fortune cookies in their chosen place on May 25. Anyone who comes across the work is allowed to take the cookies. Then, on June 14, the work’s installers will replenish the fortune cookies. At the end of the show’s run, the cookies will no longer be considered a Felix Gonzalez-Torres work. Rosen said a key aspect of the work is about “regeneration,” adding, “Felix gave up a lot of control in order to have the work be constantly present.”
Rosen added that this exhibition is not a departure from Gonzalez-Torres’s intentions with the work but rather a natural evolution attuned to our particular moment. “All of the decisions that were made are completely in the norm of the work,” Rosen said. “Nothing was stretched for the sake of this exhibition. It’s not that there will always be more sites or that the site should always be this big, but it’s only when it’s meaningful and adding meaning to the understanding of Felix’s work that it’s relevant to make those kinds of decisions.”
Among those invited to participate in manifesting “Untitled” (Fortune Cookie Corner) will be artists, collectors, friends and colleagues of Gonzalez-Torres and Rosen, and even people from whom the foundation has sourced images from on Instagram to build out its documentation of various works by Gonzalez-Torres. “In choosing to participate,” the invite reads, “one becomes a facilitator, a part of the total ‘site,’ a viewer, an audience member, the public….”
The work is Gonzalez-Torres’s earliest example of his famed “Candy” series and the only one to not rely on wrapped candies. The work is designed to be “manifested with ease,” according to the invitation to participants. Participants are being asked to email documentation of the work in various states, including its installation and when it is being replenished, which will then be added to the Rosen and Zwirner gallery websites. With this exhibition, Rosen said that perhaps “Untitled” (Fortune Cookie Corner) may reach more people than would ever be possible if it were presented in one single place as part of an exhibition.
The first day of the exhibition of “Untitled” (Fortune Cookie Corner) is also timed to the launch of a new website for the Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation, which will explore in-depth the artist’s legacy and his work. The foundation spent two years developing the site’s most significant feature: photographic documentation of all of his works in numerous incarnations, attesting to the variety of forms the works can take when shown in museums, galleries, collectors’ homes, and elsewhere.
Participants are asked to reflect on the “Untitled” (Fortune Cookie Corner)’s effects through questions such as: “Did the experience provide a sense of continuity or connection with others? Did you feel like you were part of a whole? Or did it emphasize your sense of isolation? And how does this resonate with or change your experiences of this global moment?”
Rosen said that, taken together, the new website and the exhibition offer a complex way for people to reflect on the role that art can play in bringing people together. “Among so many other things that are happening right now, this is an opportunity for us all to think more deeply and see things in a more complex way,” Rosen said. “Felix used to say very contradictory things as a way of making us responsible for gathering and having our own meaning. What’s important about doing this exhibition now is also that we are not thinking all the same or that we are not all affected the same. It’s about the experience of saying, ‘This isn’t about one thing.’”