Installation view of “Rudolf Stingel” at Gagosian Gallery, Hong Kong, 2015. Photo by Siobhan Bent for ArtAsiaPacific.

Rudolf Stingel

Rudolf Stingel

Gagosian Gallery
Italy Hong Kong

In 2007, for his mid-career retrospective, Italian artist Rudolf Stingel covered the walls of Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art and New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art with Celotex insulation boards, inviting visitors to freely dent, cut, puncture and score the foam-and-aluminum panels. Now, eight years later, the marked-up boards from these exhibitions have arrived in Hong Kong—albeit (or perhaps, appropriately) sealed in gold.

Eight square paintings from 2012, all untitled and never before exhibited, are currently being shown as part of the artist’s eponymous exhibition at Gagosian Gallery, marking his first solo show at the art-world powerhouse’s Asian outpost. This set of paintings follows a selection of smaller gilded panels from the same series, which premiered at Gagosian’s Paris space in 2012.

RUDOLF STINGELUntitled, 2012, electroformed copper, plated nickel and gold, 240 × 240 cm. Photo by Siobhan Bent for ArtAsiaPacific.

The gilded squares, which range in size from 120 to 240 centimeters in length and were cut out from Stingel’s insulation-board installations from 2007, have exceeded their modest origins by undergoing the pricey process of copper casting with gold and nickel plating. The records of the museum-goers experiences have been luxuriously preserved in these gilded time capsules, allowing them to be put on view now and 8,000 miles away from their starting point.

At the Hong Kong exhibition, large, looping concentric circles wobble across one painting, while haywire scratches dance across the surface of another hanging nearby. In the other paintings, violent slashes and careful incisions cut several centimeters deep, while thousands of pen pricks cover the panel surfaces. Long, rippled dents can be seen on a board, where a blunt object or perhaps a fist had been dragged across it. Peace signs and hearts, as well as text, abound in the works. “Happy Birthday Alex!” inscribed one visitor. “Te amo Omar” carved another. The words of a museum worker reads, “YANNICK LAID YOUR FOUNDATION.” And from Boston to Korea, visitors represented their home countries and cities in text form. 

Stingel first began inviting visitors to interact with his Celotex works in the early 2000s, including at the Venice Biennale and Museo di Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, located in the northern Italian city of Trento, where the New York-based artist was born and maintains a residence. Now approaching his 60s, Stingel has long explored themes surrounding the creation of art in works such as his Instructions booklet (1989), which guides viewers through the process of creating a Rudolf Stingel painting; his floor-to-ceiling carpet installations of the 1990s; and his ventures into photorealist painting that began in 2005.

With his gold-plated panels from 2012, Stingel once again engages the viewer in a participatory experience, though through a slightly less hands-on approach than was the case with his 2007 retrospective. In their new, recycled incarnation, the 2012 paintings, which are reflective in every sense of the word, inspire weighty considerations among viewers—not just toward what was happening in the world in 2007, when each marking was made, but what has occurred since. “RIP Steve Irwin,” words memorializing the Australian conservationist and television personality who died in 2006, puts nearly a decade between now and when they were written. Times have changed. Not to mention, do the countless couples who commemorated their relationship on the panels, still love each other?

Siobhan Bent is Hong Kong desk editor at ArtAsiaPacific.