PAWNSHOP was a conversion of e-flux's Ludlow Street office space into a pawnshop dedicated to the pawning of artworks.

Structurally, a pawnshop is a short-term loan business, which retains a collateral object in exchange for cash — a small fraction of the object’s value that must be repaid with interest for the item is to be re-claimed by its original owner. If, after 30 days, the item has not been claimed, the pawnbroker earns the right to sell it, and the pawned object remains on display until it is picked up or purchased by someone else.

PAWNSHOP’s initial inventory is comprised of over 60 pawned works from a group of artists invited to participate in the project. After PAWNSHOP opens for business on October 1st, artists may walk in with a work they want to pawn — we will happily look at all submissions and, if we find any of interest, we may add them to our inventory. After the initial 30 days, on November 1st, the artworks that have not been retrieved by their original owners may become available for sale.

Although these days pawnshops are often found in distressed urban neighborhoods, or near gambling sites where fast cash comes at a premium, this was not the case historically. From early Chinese society to the Medici era in Europe, pawnshops served as primary lenders to their communities and provided financial bases for some of the more important historical events of their times, including the discovery of the Americas; Columbus’ voyage was funded by Queen Isabella of Spain pawning her jewels. We are very curious what discoveries our pawnshop will bring about…

For several years now e-flux has been experimenting with models unusual for art, exploring the poetics of circulation and distribution. We love pawnshops for their mix of acute inventiveness, futurity and anticipation… and the idea that the object (a gun, a ring, a work of art in our case) is collateral for cash, a substitution, which might be traded back for the object during a set duration of time. A pawnshop is a stage where merchandise and money dance in a choreography that could have them circle back and cancel each other out, but in fact rarely does. What better place to question how the value of the artwork and the worth of money might be set, and reset.


“Thirty days into e-flux's PAWNSHOP”

Last month e-flux’s Ludlow street location was transformed into a  pawnshop as exhibition space , a new project by artists Liz Linden, Julieta Aranda, and Anton Vidokle. For the transformation, some sixty contemporary artists were solicited to contribute works to be pawned — that is, exchanged for a cash value, and kept for 30 days before being...

Last month e-flux’s Ludlow street location was transformed into a pawnshop as exhibition space, a new project by artists Liz Linden, Julieta Aranda, and Anton Vidokle. For the transformation, some sixty contemporary artists were solicited to contribute works to be pawned — that is, exchanged for a cash value, and kept for 30 days before being offered for sale — which tomorrow become available for purchase to patrons of the pawnshop. The artists who have contributed works include both senior and mid-career artists, some with active collector bases, so much of the works currently on view could well be removed from the space if collectors descend upon the location as it becomes a commercial art distrubution venue. The location has also been aesthetically transformed into one vision of a contemporary American pawnshop, outfitted with pegboard walls, a conventional retail window display, florescent-lit display cases, and an awning that eschews any indication of a commercial or institutional exhibition space.

This functional aesthetic framework does more than recycle an economic model of money lending, barter, and exchange, but also creates the potential for turning unsuspecting patrons into art spectators as they casually wander in to browse the wares. Herein lies the strength of the exhibition, which is complemented further by e-flux’s quiet LES location. The historical and critical precedents for this type of relational work are abundant. Nicolas Bourriaud used the model of the flea market to describe a certain strain of 90s art practice inPostproduction. What Bourriaud fails to mention in his text, however, are the artists who set up shop years prior, like Martha Rosler. Rosler provides perhaps the clearest historical prototype to PAWNSHOP with the garage sales she organized in contemporary art spaces in the 70s and later reproduced in the 80s. While Rosler advertised her garage sales both in local general-interest publications and specialized art journals, e-flux’s PAWNSHOP lies in wait for unsolicited patrons to enter and engage with the staff on hand, negotiating the established commercial protocol of the pawnshop and the art object. This human element, PAWNSHOP’s staff, animates the exhibition and playfully vulgarizes, or, one might even suggest democratizes, the often stiff and financially exclusive world of contemporary art collecting with the contextual application of a well-established and populist economic form.

Read more
Read less
Economy, Capitalism, Communism
Money & Finance, Socially-Engaged Art, Time
I have read e-flux’s privacy policy and agree that e-flux may send me announcements to the email address entered above and that my data will be processed for this purpose in accordance with e-flux’s privacy policy*

Thank you for your interest in e-flux. Check your inbox to confirm your subscription.

Feel free to subscribe to additional content from the e-flux platform: