The Gund


Tchotchke: Mass-Produced Sentimental Objects in Contemporary Art

Information About the Event

On View

Buchwald-Wright Gallery, Free Admission


Yoko Inoue, Patrick Jackson, Beth Katleman, Jeff Koons, Liliana Porter, Betye Saar, Jesse Small, Jeffrey Vallance and others.


Co-curated by Joy Sperling, immediate past president of the Popular Culture Association and professor of art history and visual culture at Denison University and Natalie Marsh, director of the Gund Gallery.


The Gund programs and exhibitions are made possible, in part, by The Gund Board of Directors and the Ohio Arts Council.


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A tchotchke is a small, inexpensive, decorative object that carries dubious visual integrity, has little functional use, and is usually mass-produced (frequently badly); its design bears little relationship to traditional high design or artistic aesthetics. Why, then, do tchotchke appear in the work of so many of today’s contemporary artists? Why does so much ‘tasteless’ material function so centrally in their work? Some artists use tchotchke as agents of camp, with ironic detachment, while others use them to critique commodity culture and still others either to undermine or accentuate the divide between high and low visual cultures or between sophisticated intellectual visual literacy and its inverse. But latent in most artistic engagement with tchotchke is an exploration of the ways in which objects, regardless of cost or value, are imbued with totemic or fetishistic meaning and significance through emotional association; and the ways in which the relationship between class and taste, race and gender, mass-consumption and individual collecting are visualized, and the channels though which value is acquired. This exhibition explores these and other strategies for constructing meaning by contemporary artists through the tactical re-presentation of tchotchke in art.