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Cleopatra’s: Trade Secrets at John Connelly Presents

Installation view of Cleopatra’s: Trade Secrets. From left to right: Bridget Finn, Sharing & Caring and Erin Somerville.

On April 10th an exhibition opened in the Tunnel Room – the project room of John Connelly Presents, NY – which in consideration of the recent desolation experienced by the art market makes a simple yet poignant demonstration: divergent to our oftentimes counterproductively stringent economic exchanges the exhibition ‘Cleopatra’s: Trade Secrets’ takes the form of a swap shop.

On April 10th the founders of Cleopatra’s – a collaborative project and exhibition space founded by Bridget Donahue, Bridget Finn, Kate McNamara and Erin Somerville in June 2008 and located at 110 Meserole Avenue in Green Point, Brooklyn – each created a work and placed it in the project space at John Connelly Presents. Every day since, invited by virtue of a previous collaboration with Cleopatra’s and scheduled in chronological order of that (or their initial) collaboration, an artist will report to the Tunnel Room to install a new object and in return take one away.

Sharing & Caring, Project #1, 2009. Mixed media.

We spoke with one of the founders of Cleopatra’s, Kate McNamara who collaborated with the Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami’s Assistant Curator Ruba Katrib for one of this exhibition’s initial four works (pictured above):

“Seeing as Cleopatra’s exists as a project space, which is not for profit and experimental in it’s methodology, and is located “off site” (ie not in Chelsea, Lower East Side) in Brooklyn, it was important for us when asked to work with John Connelly Presents to think about what it means to participate with a for profit space in the heart of the art world. Our participation with JCP meant including all participating artists, cultural producers we had worked with to date, as well as with a challenging curatorial premise that activated Cleopatra’s as a community, an entity, and space within a new one. Taking a quote from Lewis Hyde’s ‘The Gift’ and the current set of financial circumstances, ‘Cleopatra’s: Trade Secrets’ came to fruition – an attempt to reconsider alternative approaches to the market and value systems, gift economy, free market, etc while instituting the presence of an artist community. Also, each of the Cleopatra’s (Bridget Donahue, Bridget Finn, Erin Somerville, and myself) have backgrounds in art making so we began with works produced by each of us. I chose to work with Ruba, a former colleague in graduate school and dear friend, under the collaborative title Sharing & Caring.”

First trade: Tyler Coburn’s TDK IEC1/TYPE1 D60 A, (2009) exchanged for Bridget Finn’s 3-8-09f (2009).

Artists adding to and taking away from the exhibition are required to make amendments to a chalkboard positioned at the entrance to the gallery that not only informs visitors whose work is on display, but also reflects the acts of trade taking place (Detailed records of the exchanges are further documented on forms hand drawn by artist Joy Drury Cox). Attracted to the temporal nature of this display, ARTLURKER will provide regular updates on this exhibition until its close on May 16th.

Installation view after first trade of DK IEC1/TYPE1 D60 A, (2009) for 3-8-09f (2009).

Naturally, works in the exhibition are also for sale however, visitors have only a fleeting opportunity to purchase them owing to the exhibition’s constantly rotating contents and the fact that an object’s availability is terminated with its removal from the space. In keeping with the exhibition’s sense of democracy and community, all sales will be pooled to be divided between the gallery and all of the participants of the exhibition; so while artists may remit a work, in return they will gain not only another artist’s object, but also an equal share of any resulting sales[.]


Documentation of trades to date:

4/10/09: Initial 4 works

Bridget Donahue, Point of Interest, 2009. Custom sign.
Bridget Finn, 3-8-09f, 2009. Photograph.
Sharing & Caring (Kate McNamara and Ruba Katrib), Project #1, 2009. Mixed media
Erin Somerville, (As yet untitled Small dark wall mounted work), 2009.

4/11/09: Trade #1

Tyler Coburn traded a covert field recording of the opening entitled TDK IEC1/TYPE1 D60 A (2009) for 3-8-09f (2009).

4/14/09: Trade #2

Ruslan Trusewych traded an artist book entitled There Is No Solution (2009) for TDK IEC1/TYPE1 D60 A (2009).

4/15/09: Trade #3

Andres Laracuente is due to make a trade later today…


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Cleopatra’s: Trade Secrets at John Connelly Presents