For her first solo exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art, New York–based artist Martha Rosler presents her work Meta-Monumental Garage Sale, a large-scale version of the classic American garage sale, in which Museum visitors can browse and buy second-hand goods organized, displayed, and sold by the artist. The installation fills MoMA’s Marron Atrium with strange and everyday objects donated by the artist, MoMA staff, and the general public, creating a lively space for exchange between Rosler and her customers as they haggle over prices. If customers agree, they may be photographed with their purchases. The project also includes a newspaper and an active website.
Martha Rosler is widely regarded as one of the most influential artists of her generation, one whose artistic practice, teaching, and writing continue to influence succeeding generations. Rosler makes “art about the commonplace, art that illuminates social life,” examining the everyday by means of photography, performance, video, and installation.
The Meta-Monumental Garage Sale at MoMA is a successor to a work originally held (as Monumental Garage Sale) in the art gallery of the University of California at San Diego in 1973. The work was advertised simultaneously as a garage sale in local newspapers and as an art event within the local art scene. A chalkboard on site bore the legend, “Maybe the Garage Sale is a metaphor for the mind,” and a slide show of a seemingly typical local white family, bought at a local estate sale, played continuously while an audiotape loop, offering a meditation on the role of commodities in suburban life. The Garage Sale, which has also been held at the Generali Foundation, Vienna (1999); the Museu d’Art Contemporani, Barcelona (1999); Moderna Museet, Stockholm (2004); and The Institute of Contemporary Arts, London (2005), implicates visitors in face-to-face transactions within a secondary, informal cash economy—just like garage sales held outside a museum setting. As a traveling project, the Garage Sale accumulates elements from each succeeding event, ranging from components of the first project, such as the slide show and audio track, to “merchandise” from previous iterations and photographs of people holding up objects that form part of the installation.
Rosler invited the public to donate items to the Meta-Monumental Garage Sale—clothes, books, records, toys, bric-a-brac, costume jewelry, art works, odd items, mementos, and whatever items, large or small, that strike one’s fancy. The donation period has expired.