Nicolás Guagnini and Gareth James: Break Even

September 22 - October 28, 2006

“Break Even” is produced by Nicolás Guagnini, Gareth James, and Andrew Roth. Guagnini and James proposed that Andrew Roth gallery place a full-page, blank advertisement in the 2006 summer issue of Artforum. They invited seven artists: Alejandro Cesarco, Rodney Graham, Jutta Koether, Guillermo Kuitca, Seth Price, Nancy Spero, and Lawrence Weiner to intervene on the blank ad. The seven original works constitute a “deluxe edition.” The balance of the print run of Artforum is considered the “popular edition.” The profit from the sale of the “deluxe edition” will be divided between the invited artists and the gallery. Guagnini and James do not intervene directly on the blank page nor do they partake in any financial transaction.

Content and advertisements in art magazines are intrinsically entwined. The magazine is a vehicle for converting symbolic capital (prestige by means of discourse) into financial capital (sales) and vice versa. Money does not suffice, the ads have to be up to the standards of the magazine’s agenda. In essence, they are “curated.” Another convergent but supposedly independent editorial agenda regulates artist’s projects, articles, and reviews.

The art magazine has become a socially acceptable political platform for representing and staging a conflict of interests that remains unspoken while being obvious. “Break Even” claims that the ability to convert symbolic capital into financial capital — which in fact sustains the economy of the art magazine — is a means of production; and as such, the artists have taken it upon themselves to use the magazine as a site, a catalyst and a recipient for devising a work of art and an exhibition, hence creating value on their own terms.

By advertising nothing in Artforum and using that blank space in the magazine as a site of production (bypassing editorial criteria), the work of Guagnini and James collapses the traditional roles of the artist, dealer, and curator and makes apparent the relationship between discourse, art, and advertising.

Nicolás Guagnini is an artist, filmmaker and writer. He is a co-founder of Union Gaucha Productions, an experimental film company, and of Orchard, a cooperative gallery on the lower east side. A frequent contributor to Art Nexus and Texte zur Kunst magazines, his writing has also appeared in Parkett, Bomb, and Cabinet and in several catalogues.

Gareth James, artist and writer, is co-founder of the magazine Scorched Earth and the artist-run gallery Orchard. He is a frequent contributor to Texte zur Kunst and serves as chair for the Visual Arts Division at Columbia University.