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ENTERTAINMENT ARTS & CULTURE CAROLINA A. MIRANDA
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Coffee, conceptualism and a theft: Artist Gabriel Orozco's artsy convenience store in Mexico City

The art world jet set descended on Mexico City last week for the Zona Maco art fair and a battery of gallery openings. The most buzzed about? Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco’s installation at the tony Kurimanzutto gallery, where he installed a fully functioning Oxxo convenience store inside the gallery’s walls — complete with cigarettes, coffee and Malibu rum.

Titled “Oroxxo,” the piece, by the famed Mexican conceptualist who once put an empty shoe box on display at the Venice Biennale, is intended to play with the nature of markets.

I tried to use my "Oroxxo" dollars to buy ice cream at a regular Oxxo store. It was roundly rejected, reflecting the limits of art world currency in the mainstream.
I tried to use my "Oroxxo" dollars to buy ice cream at a regular Oxxo store. It was roundly rejected, reflecting the limits of art world currency in the mainstream. (Carolina A. Miranda / Los Angeles Times)

Upon entering the gallery, visitors are given an “Oroxxo” dollar: A fake bill that is a collage of U.S. and Mexican money and bears a geometric pattern devised by Orozco. These can then be exchanged for goods inside the shop, including soda, juice and cookies.

A can of Tecate bears an Orozco tag in the refrigerator.
A can of Tecate bears an Orozco tag in the refrigerator. (Carolina A. Miranda / Los Angeles Times)

What the “Oroxxo” dollar won’t buy you is one of the roughly 300 objects inside the shop that the artist has altered with circular stickers, in ways that echo the geometric patterns of his abstract paintings. (Think crop circles in blue, red and gold.) These objects, which include cookies, beer and feminine napkins, will be sold as Orozco’s art and prices for them will fluctuate depending on supply and demand over the course of the show, which runs through March 16.

Even the feminine products bore the imprint of the artist. Certainly the sort of artwork that could come in very handy in the event of an emergency.
Even the feminine products bore the imprint of the artist. Certainly the sort of artwork that could come in very handy in the event of an emergency. (Carolina A. Miranda / Los Angeles Times)
A tray of the artist's huevos (eggs) inside "Oroxxo." Naturally, the conservation questions around this work are many.
A tray of the artist's huevos (eggs) inside "Oroxxo." Naturally, the conservation questions around this work are many. (Carolina A. Miranda / Los Angeles Times)

“It’s a way of collapsing in the same physical space two different systems — the art market, which is about exclusivity and high prices, and the market for everyday consumer goods with their mass availability and low prices,” Orozco told the New York Times. “I’m interested in the turbulence that creates.”

What sort of market turbulence this low-brow marketplace inside a high-brow marketplace will cause remains to be seen. What it has generated is the sight of designer-clad socialites photographing the neon-lit aisles of an Oxxo shop while lining up to buy corn chips and white bread sandwiches.

A customer buys some coffee and a sandwich at "Oroxxo" with her Orozco dollars at the opening of the show.
A customer buys some coffee and a sandwich at "Oroxxo" with her Orozco dollars at the opening of the show. (Carolina A. Miranda / Los Angeles Times)
For the canine: Orozco-ized pet food.
For the canine: Orozco-ized pet food. (Carolina A. Miranda / Los Angeles Times)

It has also spurred at least one theft.

An anonymous artist, in an essay for Vice Mexico, claims to have stolen one of Orozco’s altered objects — a bag of Whiskas cat food — and fed it to his or her cat.

“Do not be confused,” wrote the artist in Spanish, under the nickname “Peligro” (Danger). “Oroxxo isn’t a criticism of capitalism, it is an act of capitalism.”

A magazine about the late singer Juan Gabriel features interventions by Gabriel Orozco.
A magazine about the late singer Juan Gabriel features interventions by Gabriel Orozco. (Carolina A. Miranda / Los Angeles Times)
A journalistic colleague used his "Oroxxo" dollar on a bag of Pinguinos (chocolate cupcakes), which he shared with me. It paired well with all the air-kissing and white wine.
A journalistic colleague used his "Oroxxo" dollar on a bag of Pinguinos (chocolate cupcakes), which he shared with me. It paired well with all the air-kissing and white wine. (Carolina A. Miranda / Los Angeles Times)

“This isn’t a theft or an act of vandalism, it is a protest, a performance,” wrote Peligro of the action. “It is an act of redemption for all those who feel cheated by art without content, for those who think that the readymade was a novelty 100 years ago.”

I didn’t buy anything at “Oroxxo” with my Oroxxo dollar. (The booze was off limits.) But I did hold on to it, and one afternoon, at a non-art Oxxo in the Mexico City neighborhood of Coyoacán, I asked the cashier if he’d accept my Oroxxo dollar for an ice cream bar.

“We only accept pesos,” the cashier told me.

Art world currency, it turns out, is of very limited value.

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Gabriel Orozco: Oroxxo

Where: Kurimanzutto, Gobernador Rafael Rebollar 94, San Miguel Chapultepec, Mexico City

When: Through March 16

Info: kurimanzutto.com

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carolina.miranda@latimes.com

@cmonstah

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