Michael Landy

Appropriation 3


Not on display

Michael Landy born 1963
9 photographs, dye destruction prints on paper
Image, each: 288 × 380 mm
Presented by the Mottahedan Family 2018


Appropriation 3 is one of four sets of nine C-type photographs made by the artist in 1990 (see also, Appropriation 4 1990, Tate P14978). Each of the nine photographs is individually mounted and framed and displayed in a three by three grid. They show the staff of a greengrocers business laying out a makeshift stall outside their shop. The stall is constructed from re-used materials such as plastic milk bottle crates, stacked on top of each other and covered with rolls of artificial grass.

The photographs exist in an edition of six plus three artist’s proofs and are screen-grabs taken from a video made by Landy in the same year, also titled Appropriation 3. The video was originally shown as part of Michael Landy’s installation Market, which occupied a large warehouse space called Building One in Bermondsey in 1990. Eighty-five individual works were arranged either leaning up or standing near to the building’s perimeter walls, including Tate’s Work V (Tate T15038), three videos from a sequence of four, Appropriation 1–3 1990; as well as Appropriation 1XVI, Collect IXV and Stack IXII, all 1990, which were all different arrangements of bread crates. Freestanding throughout the open space of the building were arranged thirty-nine works entitled Market Stall 1XXXIX, a single Bale, as well as some of the low-lying arrangements of bread trays that formed Appropriation IXVI. The installation engaged with a post-minimalist modular language of assembly – between fabricated and unfabricated states – mediated by the videos. The three Appropriation videos included within Market served to animate Landy’s structures, posing questions of status, authorship, function, potentiality and context. Landy explained, ‘I do nothing with my “materials” that wouldn’t be done by a street trader.’ (Michael Landy, quoted in Andrew Renton, ‘Art’, Blitz, December 1990, p.34.)

For the critic Richard Shone, writing about Market, ‘the luxury of the vast space in which it was installed engendered an overwhelming impression of bleakness stretching to infinity’ (Richard Shone, ‘“Getting and Spending”, Michael Landy Works 1988–95’, in Landy 2008, p.34). Created at the end of the Thatcher government, it appeared – through its emphasis on the sculptural substructure of a market providing a basis to systems of commerce and trade – to engage with a critique of consumerism. Although this has gone on to form one clear aspect of Landy’s work, at the time he admitted that it was not ‘uppermost in my mind. I was more interested in the sculptural aspects at that time. I was interested in the everyday world and what the everyday world made. I liked the idea of it being a kind of homage to that once-a-week street market that would be assembled and then disappear as quickly as it had been put up.’ (‘A Conversation between Michael Landy and James Lingwood’, in ibid., p.102.) By being concerned with work that connected with everyday reality and – specifically in the case of the Appropriation photographs and videos – with the language of display, and primarily a type of display that would encourage desire and its fulfillment through consumption, Landy situated his work alongside critiques of modernism and its decline.

In the works which constituted Market, Landy created a market with no goods to display or sell other than the supporting structure for a market; with direct references to the everyday world, there were opportunities also for thinking this could actually be a part of the everyday world it referenced (the bread crates were supplied to Landy by Allied Bakeries and the market stands were fabricated). The critic Kate Bush explained:

Landy’s piece knowingly catalyses a dialectic between what is and what isn’t art. Market is comprised of real, non-art objects – stalls, crates, planks – constructed by commercial manufacturers, and yet it can only be understood as art, self-consciously created for the context of the gallery, and for consumption in the art market. It rehearses some of the distinctions between artistic activity and social activity, highlighting different categories of value (use, exchange, commodity and aesthetic) and production.
(Bush 1990, unpaginated.)

Further reading
Kate Bush, Michael Landy, Market, exhibition catalogue, Building One, London 1990, unpaginated, illustrated.
Michael Landy, Everything Must Go, London 2008, illustrated pp.15–32.

Andrew Wilson
April 2018

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Display caption

Michael Landy’s Market was an installation made by arranging typical market-stall stands, artificial grass and plastic bread-crates in a vast disused industrial space in south London. These stills are taken from a video piece called Appropriations, which was shown on three monitors around the space.

The video shows high street grocers setting up their stalls for the day, using the ubiquitous plastic crates ‘borrowed’ from bread manufacturers as platforms for their goods. Landy draws attention to this act of theft and re-use that has become part of an accepted daily ritual repeated throughout the world.

Gallery label, August 2004

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