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Amie Siegel: Provenance
June 23, 2014 - January 4, 2015

Amie Siegel | Provenance | June 23, 2014-January 4, 2015

Installation Location: Lila Acheson Wallace Wing for Modern and Contemporary Art, second floor, Gallery 919  

Amie Siegel: Provenance, a three-part installation by American contemporary artist Amie Siegel (b. 1974), is on view for the first time in its entirety through January 4, 2015, at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The installation is comprised of two videos, Provenance and Lot 248; and the final work, a Lucite embedded printer’s proof titled Proof (Christie’s 19 October, 2013). All three works were created in 2013 and acquired by the Metropolitan Museum in 2014.

Provenance is the centerpiece of the installation, documenting the journey of furniture designed by the Swiss architect Pierre Jeanneret for the buildings of Chandigarh, India. Lot 248 documents the subsequent sale of the video Provenance at auction at Christie’s in October 2013. And Proof (Christie’s 19 October, 2013) embeds in Lucite a printer’s proof of the Christie’s auction catalogue paper for Provenance.

Provenance is a touchstone in Siegel’s work, with its accumulative, cinematic representation of economic and political cycles. For the past decade and a half, Siegel has worked between film, installation, photography, and performance, questioning the tropes of cinematic forms. Provenance enacts a slow reveal over multiple parts, stripping back the layers of patrimony that influence the cultural value of objects to ask a broad set of contemporary questions about the speculative markets of art and design.

The video Provenance focuses on an emblem of mid-century modernist design—the chairs, desks, and other furniture designed by Jeanneret for the buildings of Chandigarh, the controversial modernist city in India. Planned in the 1950s by a team of architects led by Le Corbusier, Chandigarh was envisioned as the ideal post-colonial capital by Jawaharal Nehru, the country’s first Prime Minister.

Le Corbusier famously quipped, “Chairs are architecture, sofas are bourgeois,” but Siegel’s video Provenance reveals the now rarefied status of this originally utilitarian furniture.  The work begins with the furniture’s present circumstances—decorating wealthy homes in London, Paris, Antwerp, New York and beyond. Provenance then traces the furniture’s journey in reverse chronology through warehouses, on display at American and European auctions, at a furniture restorer’s, on a cargo ship, and, finally, back to their origins in Chandigarh. In their original context, these prized pieces function as everyday office furniture: to be used or, at times, discarded and left outside. The absence of dialogue, along with the use of close-ups, suggests how these inanimate objects become tacit protagonists. Their migration as the spoils of modern design discloses the gulf between disparate settings, mapping the undercurrents of larger movements of capital. 

On October 19, 2013, Siegel auctioned Provenance in the Post-War and Contemporary art sale at Christie’s in London, deliberately inserting the video into the marketplace and the series of transactions that it depicts. The resulting video, Lot 248 (2013), documents the frenzy around the sale of Provenance at auction, while Proof (Christie's 19 October, 2013) (2013) embeds in Lucite a printer’s proof of the Christie’s auction catalogue paper for Provenance, thus mirroring the fate of the furniture and bringing viewers full circle.

About the Artist

Amie Siegel was born in 1974 in Chicago, Illinois. Her work has been exhibited internationally at MoMA/PS1, Walker Art Center, Hayward Gallery, Whitney Museum of American Art, KW Berlin, ICA Boston, and the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart, and most recently at MAXXI National Museum of XXI Century Arts, Rome, and the Center for Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv. She has screened her work at the Cannes Film Festival, Berlin Film Festival, New York Film Festival, Museum of Modern Art, National Gallery of Art, Washington, and many other venues. Siegel has been a fellow of the DAAD Berliner Künstlerprogramm, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Film Study Center at Harvard University, as well as a recipient of the ICA Boston's Foster Prize. Most recently, she received a Sundance Institute Film Fund award and the inaugural Forum Expanded award at the Berlin Film Festival, both for Provenance.

Installation Credits and Related Information
Amie Siegel: Provenance is organized by Nicholas Cullinan, Curator in the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Metropolitan Museum. 

The exhibition will be featured on the Museum’s website at www.metmuseum.org.

July 1, 2014 

Image Caption: Amie Siegel (American, b. 1974). Provenance (still), 2013. HD video, color, sound; 40 min., 30 sec.

Press resources