Artist Portia Munson is known for chaotic looking pieces of “art” which often times features thousands of pieces of ephemera per piece. Ephemera comes from the Latin word for “things you can find at a yard sale or tucked away in your grandparents garage“.
Case in point is her work “The Garden”, which she made in 1996 and contains more than 1500 separate objects from plastic flowers to stuffed animals, according to Bloomberg. She calls the piece a “meditation on feminism and climate change”.
Because, of course…
As you can see from the photo, the piece looks more like something you’d see on a Beatles album cover or inside of Cheech and Chong’s Volkswagen bus.
Wendy Olsoff, owner of New York Gallery P.P.O.W., thought it may be a good idea to feature the art at the Meridians section of Art Basel Miami Beach in hopes that she could sell it.
Olsoff said: “We thought it would be fantastic. It talks a lot about the environment, which is obviously in dire straits in Florida, and it also taps into feminism and other topics that we always explore in our program.”
Munson says the objects are arranged in a specific manner that minds the “idea of artificial beauty, consumerism, and cultural ideas around the feminine aspects of nature.”
Olsoff hoped to sell the piece and, after shelling out $60,000 to reassemble, fireproof and maintain the pile of crap, she slapped a $225,000 price tag on it.
Olsoff said: “Maybe if we had done a little homework first and figured out how much it would cost [to install], [we] might not have been so hasty. We didn’t really realize it.”
It was last on display two years ago and since then, the thousands of items for the piece had been sitting in storage at Munson’s home, collecting dust. Every object had to be catalogued and restored.
“When you open a box of plastic after three or five years, there’s going to be pieces that are decaying and disgusting,” Olsoff said.
Then, every piece of fabric had to be made fire resistant to meet fire safety guidelines.
Trey Hollis, the gallery’s director of art fairs, traveled to Munson’s house upstate, brought everything to an open field, strung up the objects on a clothesline, put on a mask, and sprayed everything with fire-retardant coating.
Olsoff did little outreach to existing collectors. “We do normal previews. But this is a little different,” she said.
But lo and behold, the piece was only on display for six minutes before Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson, the husband and wife founders of the 21c Museum Hotel, took interest in it. It was a match made in liberal heaven. Wilson, standing in the piece, seemed to fit right in with it:
Steve Wilson said: “We own a piece by Munson already, which we bought 12 years ago. And we just bought this piece.”
They settled at a price under the $225,000 asking price – a small price to pay for a new safe zone where Steve can also meditate on feminism and climate change.
“It’s a done deal. It’s a spectacular piece— one of those things that takes my breath away.”
If you say so, Steve.