When I was at high school, a group of kids used to take great delight in trying to get items from their lunch to stick to the cafeteria ceiling. Neither they nor the unamused teachers and school cleaners had any inkling that they were creating art, but art they were creating, it seems. A gallery in New Zealand is currently displaying what is a new landmark in readymade art: a pickle from a McDonald’s cheeseburger stuck to its pristine white ceiling.
The name of this masterpiece? 'Pickle', of course. Why complicate things? The piece on display in a group show at Auckland’s Michael Lett Gallery and has been valued at NZ$10,000 ($6,200). A good reason not to hold the pickle next time you visit Maccie Ds. Looking for how to promote your own art? See our guide to the best places to sell art online. Just make sure you package it well if you're shipping pickles.
'Pickle' apparently draws on the rich tradition of readymades, from Marcel Duchamp’s 1917 Fountain (a urinal) to that banana that Maurizio Cattelan duct taped to the wall art Art Basel Miami in 2019 (and sold for $120,000). The eponymous garnish sticks to the ceiling thanks to "residual burger sauce". Nice.
According to Ryan Moore, director of Griffin’s dealers, Fine Arts, Sydney, “as much as this looks like a pickle attached to the ceiling – and there is no artifice there, that is exactly what it is –there is something in the encounter with that as a sculpture or a sculptural gesture". He said Pickle was intended to provoke debate about “the way value and meaning is generated between people.” We'll look forward to the Pickle's launch as an NFT then.
The buyer of Griffin’s artwork won’t get the actual pickle in question, but instructions on how to recreate the artwork. According to the artist, this elevates the pickle further (and it's already up on the ceiling). No, we're not sure how detailed these instructions will be or how much skill is required to stick a McDonald's pickle onto the ceiling.
According to Moore, “It’s not about the virtuosity of the artist standing there in the gallery throwing it to the ceiling." He says, "How it gets there doesn’t matter, as long as someone takes it out of the burger and flicks it on to the ceiling. The gesture is so pure, so joyful—that is what makes it so good.”
We imagine that McDonald's may not be impressed if this masterpiece provokes a wave of cathartic pickle throwing in McDonald's eateries, and we in no way condone trying it. Then again, McDonald's loves a marketing stunt. It might end up selling more pickles. The exhibit, which closes this weekend, also backs up our inclusion of food in our list of recommendations for unexpected sources of inspiration.