The Jewish Museum’s participatory exhibition Take Me (I’m Yours) is now halfway through its nearly five-month run and the artworks are being eagerly consumed by visitors. Featuring 42 international and intergenerational artists, every work was designed to be reproduced in the thousands, then taken away.
First mounted in 1995 at the Serpentine Gallery in London, Take Me (I’m Yours) was originally conceived by the curator Hans Ulrich Obrist and the artist Christian Boltanski, who presented work of 12 artists exploring concepts of value and participation in contemporary art. More than 20 years later in New York City, the exhibition takes on new meaning at a collecting institution with an expanded group of artists addressing the issues of their time.
Since opening in New York on September 16, the exhibition has distributed more than:
6,000 T-shirts by Rirkrit Tiravanija
7,000 Political Ribbons by Andrea Bowers
15,000 fortune cookies by artists Ian Cheng and Rachel Rose
Plus thousands more by each of the 39 other artists in the exhibition
Giving away the artwork instead of holding onto it challenges the historical role of the museum, particularly one that collects. The contemporary collecting museum can be traced back to Renaissance Europe where private collections of cultural artifacts and the natural world were stored in cabinet-rooms known as Wunderkammers, or cabinets of curiosities. Owned by powerful merchants, these collections served not only as repositories of knowledge but also as potent symbols of their owner’s knowledge and power, often exoticizing any non-Western objects. In opposition, Take Me (I’m Yours) aims to democratize the museum for all visitors to take ownership of artworks, and curate their own personal art collections at home. In the words of artist Lawrence Weiner who created a stencil and tattoo for the exhibition, NAU EM I ART BILONG YUMI, which translates from pidgin to English as “the art of today belongs to us.”
Works of art removed from the exhibition have now also taken on a new perspective. Through the hashtag #TakeMeImYoursNYC, which feeds into the Jewish Museum’s website, visitors have shared their own exhibitions and displays of artworks, many of which address the social and political issues of today.
Within a week of the United States Presidential election, artist Jonathan Horowitz’s poster was seen among post-it notes in the Union Square subway station in New York City. The poster’s placement and impact was exactly as the exhibition intended: the art was taken from the museum and given vitality in the streets, stripped of politics, but loaded with meaning.
Take Me (I’m Yours) is on view at the Jewish Museum through February 5, 2017.