Academic journal article Framework

Around the Clock: Museum and Market

Academic journal article Framework

Around the Clock: Museum and Market

Article excerpt

In fall 2012, visitors to the homepage of the Power Plant, the main venue for contemporary art in Toronto, were greeted with a slideshow featuring the institution's current exhibitions. The slide devoted to Omer Fast's Continuous Coverage was typical: it featured a still from the artist's video Continuity (DE, 2012), one of the primary works on display. When the slide changed and the advertisement for The Clock (2010) came on, something very different filled the screen. Instead of a still from Christian Marclay's twenty-four-hour video-of, say, a wristwatch-there was a photograph of a long queue of people in a gallery corridor with a sign prominently featured in the foreground of the image: "LINE UP STARTS HERE FOR THE CLOCK."

By the time The Clock made its way to the Power Plant, it had been attracting crowds and publicity across Europe and North America for two years. After being first exhibited at the Mason's Yard location of the White Cube Gallery in London in October 2010, it went on to attract 11,500 visitors to the Paula Cooper Gallery in New York over the course of a month in the dead of winter.1 In the summer of 2011, it won the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale; in the summer of 2012, it played for six weeks in the David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center in New York and attracted 18,000 people.2 When The Clock arrived in Toronto it was no longer just an artwork, but rather a phenomenon that had made the rare crossover from the often-insular world of contemporary art to the broader cultural sphere. Some were calling it the first masterpiece of the twenty-first century; devotees were camping out overnight to see what would happen in the wee hours; and one Toronto viewer set out to blog out his repeated visits to see the work in its entirety, even producing a spreadsheet to track his progress.3

The Power Plant recognized all of this in its decision to promote the work on its website with a photograph of a queue: line up here, as people have lined up before you in New York, London, Boston, and Los Angeles. Be prepared to wait; the experience of this artwork is about temporality in more ways than one. Long queues are normally the property of nightclubs or iPhone launches, not gallery installations. But the queue for The Clock fulfills the same function as the queue outside the Apple Store: it endows an experience with an aura of exclusivity and thereby heightens its appeal. It is a visual display of desire that in turn incites desire. Though there is much to be said about the relationship of The Clock to various concepts such as cinematic time, continuity editing, found-footage filmmaking, and cinephilia, the following pages will forego an analysis of the artwork as text to instead interrogate the The Clock as phenomenon. This essay will situate The Clock within the dual context of museum and market-two profoundly interlocking entities undergoing equally profound transformations in the early twenty-first century. In particular, I will situate The Clock as the most significant iteration to date of a variety of artwork that arose in the 1990s and has achieved particular prominence within the last decade, with significant ramifications for the status of the moving image on the art market: the spectacular-and spectacularly accessible-projected video installation.

In 2010, Paula Cooper Gallery and White Cube jointly offered The Clock for sale in a limited edition of six priced at a reported $467,500 each,4 making it one of the most expensive pieces of moving image art ever sold, and perhaps the most expensive ever sold on the primary market.5 Five copies were designated at this price for institutional sales, while the sixth went to hedge fund manager Steve Cohen for an undisclosed but presumably larger sum.6 Major museums including the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, London's Tate Modern, and the National Gallery of Canada clamored to purchase this high-priced piece of software, with some institutions partnering to co-acquire the work in order to afford it. …

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