Catalogue entry

Douglas Huebler born 1924 [- 1997]

P07234 Variable Piece No. 44 1971

Inscribed 'Douglas Huebler' b.r.
Photographs on card, 18 x 24 1/8 (45.7 x 61.2)
Purchased from the artist (Grant-in-Aid) 1974

The following explanatory note and set of instructions is printed below the space for photographs:

VARIABLE PIECE #44
GLOBAL
THIS PIECE WILL EXIST AS A WORK IN PROGRESS FOR TEN YEARS; IT IS NUMBER 46 IN AN EDITION OF 100 AND WILL BE SOLD ONLY DURING 1971. ALTHOUGH INITIALLY IDENTICAL WITH THE OTHERS IN THE SERIES ITS ESSENCE WILL BECOME ORIGINAL AFTER THE OWNER HAS COMPLETED IT IN THE MANNER DESCRIBED BELOW.
THROUGH 1980 THE OWNER WILL ARRANGE TO HAVE A PHOTOGRAPH (2 1/8" x 2 1/8") MADE OF HIS (OR HER) FACE. HE WILL SEND ONE COPY TO THE PERSON WHO OWNS THE PIECE THAT PRECEDES HIS IN THE NUMERICAL SEQUENCE OF THE EDITION, AND ANOTHER TO THE OWNER OF THE PIECE THAT FOLLOWS HIS. IN TURN HE WILL RECEIVE A PHOTOGRAPH FROM EACH OF THOSE PEOPLE AND WILL APPEND THEIR PHOTOGRAPHS, AND HIS, WITHIN THE APPROPRIATE SQUARES DRAWN ON THE ABOVE SURFACE.

IN ORDER TO FACILITATE THE NECESSARY EXCHANGES IT WILL BE THE RESPONSIBILITY OF EACH OWNER TO KEEP THE OTHERS INFORMED IF HIS ADDRESS CHANGES.

IN THE EVENT OF DEATH OR SALE THE NEXT OWNER WILL REPLACE THE ORIGINAL OWNER, AT THAT POINT, AND CONTINUE THE PROCESS UNTIL COMPLETED IN THE MANNER DESCRIBED.

IN ORDER TO OPEN AND CLOSE THE SEQUENTIAL ORDER THE ARTIST WILL PARTICIPATE BY OWNING AN 'ARTIST'S PROOF' THAT PRECEDES 'NUMBER ONE' AND FOLLOWS THE LAST ONE SOLD.

THE ARTIST PLANS TO EXHIBIT THE ENTIRE PROJECT DURING 1981: ALL OWNERS ARE REQUESTED TO KEEP THEIR ADDRESSES CURRENT WITH HIM SO THAT HE CAN CONTACT THEM AT THAT TIME.
DOUGLAS HUEBLER
MARCH 1, 1971.

The number of the Tate's piece, no. 46, was written into the space provided, in accordance with the artist's instructions. Although it was originally intended that examples of 'Variable Piece No. 44' should be sold only in 1971, several collectors failed to co-operate and Huebler replaced them with new buyers in 1973 and 1974. The example sold to the Tate was the last to be sold and the artist then closed the edition. It is therefore one of those which links up with the artist's proof retained by Huebler himself, whose photographs appear in the bottom row.

The Tate's work is owned by the Trustees, ten in number when at full strength, but it was decided in consultation with the artist that they should be represented each year by a photograph of their current Chairman and that photographs of the artist should be used for the three years 1971-3, before the piece was acquired by the Gallery. These photographs are stuck into the spaces provided in the middle row. The preceding print, no. 45, is at present owned by Gian Piero Bona, the brother-in-law of Gian Enzo Sperone of the Galleria Sperone, Turin; and his photographs appear in the top row.

The artist said that in addition to its presentation of human appearances and its juxtaposition of images, the theme of this work is the owners' own responsibility, decisions and activities. He has been making owners' responsibility part of the content of works since 1968. His intention in P07234 was that owners should commit themselves to something that would become art only by their acting as instructed. He had expected that it would work perfectly, that once the instructions were set up and the 'boards' bought, it would run itself. But it turns out to be working very imperfectly and to have required, ever since it began, Huebler's constant work to try to keep it going. He has now accepted that imperfection, in its many variations, is part of the work's content. Indeed unpredictability of response is a characteristic of nature, and the piece's purpose is to show, within its specific area of investigation, what nature (in its broadest sense) is like. The piece continues to function, in whatever manner ownership changes, including by death.

This is the first multiple that Huebler has made, but it is designed so that each example should be unique and also require energy on the owner's part. He did not set out with the intention of making a multiple; rather it was a case that the idea gave birth to the multiple.

The content of the work includes the origination and development of relationships between other people, over which the artist has no control, and the enhancing of awareness not only of the owners' changing appearance and of their acts of choice regarding its public presentation, but also of their socio-economic situation as participants and owners.

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.367-8, reproduced p.367