by Kara Q. Smith
Entering San Francisco Antique & Design Mall is like stepping out of the wardrobe into a land full of haphazardly placed objects and wares, trinkets, tchotchkes, and worlds upon worlds of aged interiors, all of which manage to simultaneously disorient and excite the savvy adventurer. Located a little past Industrial Street and the just-built Lowe’s that is sure to threaten the extant home-building depots and emporiums en route, SFADM is (at best) unconsidered by devotees of contemporary art on touristic expeditions around the Bay.
“At a first glance the place presented a confused picture in which every achievement, human and divine, was mingled…
“Every land of earth seemed to have contributed some stray fragment of its learning, some example of its art. Nothing seemed lacking to this philosophical kitchen-midden…
“This extraordinary combination was rendered yet more bizarre by the accidents of lighting, by a multitude of confused reflections of various hues, by the sharp contrast of blacks and whites.”
-Honore de Balzac, The Magic Skin, 1831
Unlike museum spaces, there are no placards or curated rooms indicating artistic eras or historical importance; the viewer must discern all meaning and context for oneself. Exhausted after only minutes, I traversed the cold concrete floor - weaving amongst mid-century modern tables, Chinese sculpture and cathedral remnants – searching to find the only thing I was looking for that day: Showcase 13. Curated by Chris Fitzpatrick & Post Brothers. SC13 is a five-month rotating series of interventions by artists in SFADM.
Zarouhie Abdalian, Certain Spanning Trees, 2010, aluminum foil tape on concrete floor
As I followed a crack in the concrete, I arrived at SC9 and a silver lining began to sparkle in the crevice between the isles of showcases. Subtle and reminiscent of a mirage, the thin glimmering line is a piece by Zarouhie Abdalian, enchantingly leading any curious viewer to SC13.
Unlike museum-mining interventions of past (Fred Wilson), or present (Mark Dion), the current installation by Benoit Maire and Mauro Vignando in SC13 is not sourced directly from the Mall in an effort to re-contextualize and re-interpret specific antiques. Rather, in this space where each talisman holds a price based on personal or historic value, SC13 quietly inverts the hungry space of consumption. The lone shelf in the showcase contains a piece of ebony—the size of a Jenga block—hovering over a pair of women’s shoes stuffed with concrete blocks in the bottom right corner of the case. The stoic dark rectangle seems at peace resting lightly on its glass plane. Beckoning contemplation, it exerts a reverence that the objects sequestered amongst rusty corkscrews and Louis Vuitton wallets next door simply cannot.
Mauro Vignando, Buddha, 2009, ebony with Benoit Maire, History of Geometry #3, 2009, shoes, marble
Graceful, bright, and with nothing for sale, SC13 seems almost like a religious experience in the corner of the mall, waiting to confront any shopper who can harness control over their darting eyes to take notice. Being only one instance in this five-month series, I expect each rotation will show itself to be an unexpected treasure. Each soon to be only a memory, passed up by so many who see no value in its priceless existence.
- Kara Q. Smith
Top Image: SC13 Installation View