A L E X G A W R O N S K I

In the Year 2021

Documentation from the contemporary art installation In the Year Twenty Twenty One by Alex Gawronski held at KNULP gallery in Camperdown, Sydney, Australia. A contemporary art installation in the form of a fictional lounge room setting containing paintings, an abstract sculpture, a vase with colorful artificial flowers and contemporary art magazines. These are roped off like a museum display.
Documentation from the contemporary art installation In the Year Twenty Twenty One by Alex Gawronski held at KNULP gallery in Camperdown, Sydney, Australia. A contemporary art installation in the form of a fictional lounge room setting containing paintings, a sculpture, a vase with colorful artificial flowers and magazines. These are roped off like a museum display.
Documentation from the contemporary art installation In the Year Twenty Twenty One by Alex Gawronski held at KNULP gallery in Camperdown, Sydney, Australia. A contemporary art installation in the form of a fictional lounge room setting containing paintings, a sculpture, a vase with colorful artificial flowers and contemporary art magazines. These are roped off like a museum display.
Documentation from the contemporary art installation In the Year Twenty Twenty One by Alex Gawronski held at KNULP gallery in Camperdown, Sydney, Australia. A hard-edged abstract painting in diagonal black and white. A wall label that says do not touch the exhibit
Documentation from the contemporary art installation In the Year Twenty Twenty One by Alex Gawronski held at KNULP gallery in Camperdown, Sydney, Australia. A wall with a series of abstract paintings of various sizes. A black and white photograph in a white frame. A vase with a bunch of colorful artificial flowers on a rounded wooden side table.
Documentation from the contemporary art installation In the Year Twenty Twenty One by Alex Gawronski held at KNULP gallery in Camperdown, Sydney, Australia. A white wall with a black and white photograph in a white frame and an organic abstract painting in brown and gold. A vase with a bunch of colorful artificial flowers on a rounded wooden side table under which is a pyramidal pile of art books. On the left, a view onto an empty street with a road, a car and a tree.
Documentation from the contemporary art installation In the Year Twenty Twenty One by Alex Gawronski held at KNULP gallery in Camperdown, Sydney, Australia. A white wall with a black and white photograph in a white frame and an organic abstract painting in brown and gold. A vase with a bunch of colorful artificial flowers on a rounded wooden side table.
Documentation from the contemporary art installation In the Year Twenty Twenty One by Alex Gawronski held at KNULP gallery in Camperdown, Sydney, Australia. Black and white photographic paper with white holes in it that look like stars in a white frame on a white wall.
Documentation from the contemporary art installation In the Year Twenty Twenty One by Alex Gawronski held at KNULP gallery in Camperdown, Sydney, Australia. An organic abstract painting in brown and gold in portrait format.
Documentation from the contemporary art installation In the Year Twenty Twenty One by Alex Gawronski held at KNULP gallery in Camperdown, Sydney, Australia. A red hard-edged three dimensional painting made up of different size rectilinear panels against a white wall above a brown floor.
Documentation from the contemporary art installation In the Year Twenty Twenty One by Alex Gawronski held at KNULP gallery in Camperdown, Sydney, Australia. A digital photo on canvas of an expressive abstract painting in a simple thin wooden frame on a white wall.
Documentation from the contemporary art installation In the Year Twenty Twenty One by Alex Gawronski held at KNULP gallery in Camperdown, Sydney, Australia. A contemporary art installation in the form of a fictional lounge room setting containing paintings, a sculpture, a vase with colorful artificial flowers and contemporary art magazines. These are roped off like a museum display.
Documentation from the contemporary art installation In the Year Twenty Twenty One by Alex Gawronski held at KNULP gallery in Camperdown, Sydney, Australia. A low coffee in brown wood grain on which is a blue vase with artificial flowers, a display of contemporary art magazines and what appears to be a bronze abstract sculpture on the left. Underneath a pale rug with black speckles.
Documentation from the contemporary art installation In the Year Twenty Twenty One by Alex Gawronski held at KNULP gallery in Camperdown, Sydney, Australia. A close up of what appears to be a bronze abstract sculpture in the shape of small boxes stacked diagonally end on end on a brown wood grain coffee table. On the left, the corner of a stack of contemporary art magazines. An olive colored couch with a yellow and white cushion and an expressive abstract painting on a white wall.
Documentation from the contemporary art installation In the Year Twenty Twenty One by Alex Gawronski held at KNULP gallery in Camperdown, Sydney, Australia. A contemporary art installation in the form of a fictional lounge room setting containing paintings, an abstract sculpture, a vase with colorful artificial flowers and contemporary art magazines. These are roped off like a museum display.
Documentation from the contemporary art installation In the Year Twenty Twenty One by Alex Gawronski held at KNULP gallery in Camperdown, Sydney, Australia. Three paragraphs of black text on a window behind which are several abstract art works on a white wall, contemporary furniture and a vase of colorful artificial flowers on the left.
Documentation from the contemporary art installation In the Year Twenty Twenty One by Alex Gawronski held at KNULP gallery in Camperdown, Sydney, Australia. A contemporary art installation in the form of a fictional lounge room setting containing paintings, a sculpture, a blue vase with colorful artificial flowers and contemporary art magazines. These are roped off like a museum display.
Documentation from the contemporary art installation In the Year Twenty Twenty One by Alex Gawronski held at KNULP gallery in Camperdown, Sydney, Australia. A contemporary art installation in the form of a fictional lounge room setting containing paintings, a sculpture, a blue vase with colorful flowers and contemporary magazines. These are roped off like a museum display.
Documentation from the contemporary art installation In the Year Twenty Twenty One by Alex Gawronski held at KNULP gallery in Camperdown, Sydney, Australia. Three paragraphs of black text on a window behind which are several abstract art works on a white wall, contemporary furniture and a vase of colorful artificial flowers on the left.

Alex Gawronski, In the Year Twenty Twenty One, 2021

KNULP, Camperdown, Sydney. Australia

(Timber, MDF, paint, paper, cardboard, felt, photographic paper, frame, digital print on canvas, furniture, woolen rug, cushions, books, magazines, ceramic & glass vases, artificial flowers, vinyl lettering)

The idea for this installation was prompted by a visit to a city museum in Western Europe (the exact city is irrelevant). In the museum, a specially constructed room recreated a typical 19th Century bourgeois salon housing fine furniture, household objects, artworks and antiques. A text applied to the glass frontage of this historical ‘display case’ explained how the objects and artworks owned and displayed in bourgeois homes in the 19th Century were expressions not only of their owners’ personal tastes, but of their social mobility and status more broadly. Of course, the mass emergence of the bourgeoisie – the class to which artists most ‘naturally’ belong – was greatly accelerated in the aftermath of the Industrial Revolution via the profits garnered by its attendant technological and mercantile developments.

Viewing this museological display lead me to question how similar the symbolic functioning of art in the 19th Century of the ‘Industrial Revolution’ and that of today, were. This question seemed particularly pertinent when many contemporary theorists are comparing current politico-economic reshaping of cultures in lieu of the social and class divisions that appeared at that earlier time. As global ruling elites have today succeeded in vastly expanding their profits at a time of economic and social decline – the result of decades of plummeting productivity and wage stagnation – so the economic divisions between classes (an unpopular term for those who would like to imagine their non-existence) have become as stark as they once were at the time of the Industrial Revolution.

Given this, it is equally true that the vast majority of contemporary art produced that finds a market, finds its ‘true home’ as privileged décor in the residences of ruling elites. And no matter what the critical or theoretical pretensions of the artist themselves, the power of wealthy collectors dominate the contexts by which such art is seen. Such collectors, as they did in the 19th Century, utilise their collections to signify their social standing not only as an indication of the sheer buying power of their ‘disposable income’, but as means of instilling evidence of their superior taste and education – their openness to aesthetic ‘innovation’ and creative ‘daring’ distinguishing them from the Plebs.

Whilst it is true that the manifestations and contexts of contemporary art are many and diverse, and that many of its expressions are far from ‘traditional’, it is equally arguable that at no time in recent history has the sheer traditionalism of art and the role of the artist seemed more re-emergent. Where various avant-gardes once hoped to usurp bourgeois mercantilism as the structuring force of art and society, as well as the entrenched social stratification it occasioned, their alleged long-ago failure has in many respects supported alternatively the return of a variety of clichés about art and the artist: it is the artist who accesses a superior freedom which comes to light as aesthetic invention and the continuous promulgation of formal ‘newness’. Artists produce what has ‘never been seen’ before, as the myth of creativity goes. It is these unique qualities the artist takes to market and sells (if they’re lucky) to those socially and economically empowered enough to buy them. In return, the artist receives roughly half of whatever their creative labour is deemed worth at any time. Arguably, it is wealthy collectors who benefit most from this arrangement as they add significant social and cultural capital to their undeniable stores of financial capital and the social and political leverage wealth grants them.

In this installation, the collector as middle-man is simply removed from the equation altogether as the fictional bourgeois interior setting becomes the entire content of the exhibition, rather than its mere presumed destination. Formally, the artworks exhibited in the space are pastiches of trends that have re-appeared in recent art: ‘ironic’ hard-edged abstraction, the self-referential appropriation of appropriation, photo-materialism, ‘post-internet’ art (one of the works is in fact a physical reproduction of a painting available for sale in the popular online game ‘Sims 3’). Add to the artworks a self-consciously arranged stack of contemporary art magazines many of which function as advertising for those individual artists most favoured by markets (to argue that this is not the case would be like arguing that popular journalism today is not primarily a surrogate means of instilling the political claims of ruling parties).

The ‘journalistic’ foregrounding of what is most collectible supports traditionalist notions of art’s ultimate function as commerce. At the same time, given that this recreated bourgeois living room is roped-off as in a museum, means that it cannot be read (or used) literally (no sitting on the couch, and no browsing the magazines). What was relegated to history in the display that triggered this work is, in reality, fully alive and arguably re-ensconced to the extent it was over 100 years ago. And this is despite – or maybe because of – the massive social, political, environmental and economic crises we currently face. These are crises which art, and the global art world as a space of privilege, despite its comparative marginality, are by no means exempt from.

If art’s purpose is not to support the social and political dominance of the wealthy, what is it?

Written by alex gawronski

November 28, 2021 at 6:53 PM