The Relationship Between Art and Commerce, as Scored by a Ping Pong–Playing Robot

Sep 16, 2016 8:42PM

Ping pong in a gallery? It’s been done. But what about an installation that invites visitors to play against a robot, all while live-streaming the competition like a televised sporting event? Advantage, Jonas Lund.

As intriguing as the concept may sound, the ping pong–playing robot isn’t exactly what “Your Logo Here,” Lund’s new show at Steve Turner in Los Angeles, is about. The robot, and the athletic spectacle surrounding it, is a vehicle for exploring the complicated relationship between art and commerce.

It’s a theme that has long fascinated the Swedish-born artist, and one he has investigated throughout his career, including in two previous solo exhibitions at Steve Turner. For the first, “Flip City” (2014), Lund attached tracking devices to generic-looking abstract paintings and followed their locations throughout the world of art collectors and consumers. In the follow-up, “Strings Attached” (2015), Lund turned his attention to the role of galleries and their control over the expanding market for work by emerging artists.

Now, Lund, who’s based in Amsterdam and Rio de Janeiro, is back in Los Angeles for part three. “Your Logo Here” has, as its title suggests, an unabashedly commercial edge. The space around the central sporting event is full of banners, jerseys, and paintings; but instead of bearing the names of sports teams or mega brands, they display the logos of the art-related institutions that sponsor the show. Artsy is one of the participants—go team!—as is The Armory, Artspace, Google, and Phillips, among scores of others.

By offering such organizations a chance to support the exhibition, Lund engages with what he calls the art world’s “exchange economy.” Indeed, the process is transactional: In exchange for having their logos included in the show, participating institutions agree to “like” the artist’s and gallery’s show-related posts on social media. For a larger logo and more prominent placement, organizations also agree to create their own posts (and to pay a nominal fee).

Spectators—the other key component in the interactive spectacle—can watch the event unfold live via streaming video on the gallery’s website. Or, if they’re in LA, they can play against the robot, who looks to be a formidable opponent. If the machinations prove to be too much, there’s also an option to play in a one-day tournament against other humans. However, given that the art world is moving rather quickly into the digital realm, it’s high time to battle the bot.

—Bridget Gleeson

Jonas Lund: Your Logo Here” is on view at Steve Turner, Los Angeles, Sept. 10–Oct. 8, 2016.

Follow Steve Turner on Artsy.