Hong Kong gallery Over the Influence will be showing the work of Ron Arad, one of the most influential conceptual designers, architects and artists of our time, in the exhibition “Flat Mates” from January 11 to February 28.
Arad pays tribute to Marcel Duchamp, the 20th-century pioneer of conceptual art. Inspired by Duchamp’s “Porte Bouteilles” (“Bottle Rack”), also known as “Herisson” (“Hedgehog”), the show teems with poetic reinterpretations and re-conceptions of the readymade.
In 1914, Duchamp bought, titled and signed a bottle-rack made from galvanised iron from a Paris department store. It’s now regarded as the first readymade artwork. The artist’s sister soon chucked the piece in the trash, but Duchamp replaced it in 1921 and additional “editions” were purchased and signed in 1964.
The first definition of a readymade, published in Andre Breton and Paul Eluard’s “Abridged Dictionary of Surrealism” says it must be “an ordinary object elevated to the dignity of a work of art by the mere choice of an artist”.
Arad began his career applying the readymade concept to industrial design. In 1981 his chance discovery of a Rover in a junkyard led to the first edition of his “Rover Chair”, fabricated by combining the seat from the Rover with elements of the Kee-Klamp scaffolding system.
Throughout the 1980s he continued to make Rover Chairs one at a time as he found discarded seats, comfortably allowing the work to fall into categorisation as a readymade artwork.
Since then, Arad’s practice has evolved into more of a dialogue with the Duchamp method of appropriating found objects. In 2013, for an exhibition in Israel, he squashed six Fiat 500 cars using a shipyard press and romantically titled the series “Pressed Flowers”.
The works straddle the readymades of Duchamp and the formal sculptures of John Chamberlain, which used car bodies as raw material. They also nod to Arad’s “Rover Chair” and “Aerial Light”, both made from salvaged car parts, and to the idea of compression used in his “Sticks and Stones” crushing machine installed at Centre Georges Pompidou in 1987.
In the exhibition “Flat Mates”, Arad modifies the very same bottle-rack claimed by Duchamp, subverting the concept of the readymade itself. These works are put through the additional modification used for the Fiat 500s – the crushing pressure of a shipyard press, changing the original intention of the object so much that it is removed completely from the point of utility.
While Duchamp removed the utility of an object by placing it in a fine-art context, Arad takes objects considered to be irrelevant and breathes new life back into them.
Over the Influence is on Hollywood Road in Hong Kong’s Central district and open Tuesday through Saturday.