A single slice of pickle splatted on the ceiling of a gallery in New Zealand is causing…a bit of a pickle! Australian artist Matthew Griffin is asking buyers to splurge NZ$10,000 (£5,173) for the provocative piece that questions the true meaning of art.
Simply titled ‘Pickle’, the tiny vegetable was plucked from a McDonald’s cheeseburger before its exhibition debut at Auckland’s Michael Lett Gallery. Apparently, the pickle was attached to the gallery’s ceiling with nothing more than the sauce it came with. But Griffin is not selling this exact pickle, rather the buyer will purchase the concept, receiving instructions for how to recreate the artwork in their own space.
“As much as this looks like a pickle attached to the ceiling – and there is no artifice there, that is exactly what it is – there is something in the encounter with that as a sculpture or a sculptural gesture,” explained Ryan Moore, the director of Fine Arts, Sydney, which represents Griffin.
Moore continued, “generally speaking, artists aren’t the ones deciding whether something is art or not – they are the ones who make and do things. Whether something is valuable and meaningful as artwork is the way that we collectively, as a society choose to use it or talk about it.”
‘Pickle’ immediately aroused controversy for its jarring visuals. After all, it is simply a pickle thrown at a ceiling in an art gallery. One social media user noted the irony of Griffin’s piece, commenting “I got kicked out of a McDonald’s by the police for doing this when I was a teenager, now it’s art.”
Yet others have relished in the witty and playful nature of ‘Pickle’. ArtForum critic Wes Hill said, “Griffin has garnered a singular reputation for what we in Australia call ‘taking the piss’ – a sardonic undercutting of self-seriousness and spin.”
This is certainly not the first time artists have called into question the very meaning of art; in 1917, Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) anonymously submitted a standard urinal piece he called ‘Fountain’ to a society exhibition that he had helped found himself. The co-director of Michael Lett Gallery, Andrew Thomas, concluded that Griffin’s has at the very least prompted “many smiles, closely followed by some interesting and engaged conversations.” ‘Pickle’ was on display as part of in Fine Arts, Sydney’s exhibition at Michael Lett until 30 July 2022.