Bizarre Coincidence: Hole-in-the-floor edition.

Such a ‘k Hole: Urs Fischer’s You, 2007 at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise. (Image courtesy of Gavin Brown.)

In New York Magazine‘s end-of-the-year wrap-up-of-everything-in-the-NYC-universe issue, critic Jerry Saltz wrote that seeing Urs Fischer’s giant hole-in-the-ground at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise in Chelsea was “transforming and shocking.” He added:

Fischer had torn up a gallery, forcing us to look into his own “hole.” But presciently, it was just as much a precipice for us and for the art world, since this was going to be the state of the world for the year to come: We’d all be poised on the edge — politically, psychically, financially, and aesthetically. The stark gesture was simultaneously surreal, loving, violent, and audacious. Fischer shattered perceptual space, destabilized our relationship to art and art galleries, overturned ideas about the market, and made us understand that all that is solid melts into air, that something momentous was coming.

Last fall, in his original review of the piece, Saltz described it as “Herculean,” “splendid” and “brimming with meaning and mojo.” He added that this “bold act” would make the viewer “look at galleries in a new way.”

I gotta be honest: I wasn’t convinced then, and I’m not convinced now. But one thing’s for sure: Fischer’s hole felt a lot less prescient when I discovered that it has a predecessor. Last month, when I rolled up to L.A.’s Museum of Contemporary Art, I got to ogle a 2008 redo of Chris Burden’s 1986 installation, Exposing the Foundation of the Museum, a series of three holes in the museum floor that the MOCA lit describes as “a critical response to the institution of art itself.” Looks like Fischer was out-holed. By some dude in L.A. — 22 years ago.

Exposing the Foundation of the Museum, 1986/2008, by Chris Burden, at MOCA, as part of the Geffen Contemporary’s Index: Conceptualism in California from the Permanent Collection. Today’s the last day to see this piece, by the way, so get over there! (Image courtesy of MOCA.)


  1. Remember This

    hey–thanks so much for this much needed expose’. art critics so often reward derivative work, without acknowledging the precedent. Saltz’s praise of Fisher’s hole is really undeserved.

  2. MatGleason

    Saltz is the classic New York Navel Gazer – when it happens there it happened first and best even if it was 22 years behind the well-documented times.

  3. Jon

    I have to say, I’m not completely sure what is going on here besides Saltz overstating the importance of Fischer’s work. Who cares if it has -kind of- been done before? I doubt Urs Fischer does. Did you see it? Why not use the same criteria of to judge Elbow Toe (art historical precedents, etc)?

  4. RyanB

    Right on MatGleason!

    Saltz is a Navel Gazer -I’ve seen him lecture 2x and he’s nearly incomprehensible in his presentation, almost as if he cannot decide if he should give up art criticism to become a mediocre stand up comedian, so he’ll try both in his boring lectures about his own enlightened vision. In fact the last time I saw him speak he actually couldn’t remember WHERE he was lecturing – I guess when a true New Yorker gets out of the city, his head gets light.