But Where Did the Time Go?


Christian Marclay’s The Clock closed at Paula Cooper Gallery in New York on Feb. 19 with people still waiting in line to see the 24-hour video. All eight editions sold. The work elicited a similar response during its showing last fall at White Cube in London.

According to the gallery’s associate director Anthony Allen, the video was in the process of being sold to “public institutions.” He couldn’t confirm the rumor that one edition went to François Pinault’s Palazzo Grassi in Venice. The work was said to be priced at $500,000, but Allen would say only that it was “in the hundreds of thousands.”

Unprepared for the onslaught of visitors—art and film buffs alike—the gallery started keeping track of attendance only about halfway through the show’s run (Jan. 21–Feb. 18). For the first overnight screening, on Feb. 4 from 6 PM to 10 AM, 765 visitors were recorded. From the morning of Feb. 11 to the morning of Feb. 12, the gallery was open nonstop and tallied 2,940 visitors.

The Clock comprises thousands of clips from films old and new, all of which feature timepieces—from watches to Big Ben. Pieced together sequentially, the clips mark the passing of time, something that visitors were all too aware of as they stood outside the gallery for up to two hours on the show’s last day, a cold and windy one at that. Marclay spent 2½ years on the project, working with up to six assistants.

Allen said that many people returned to view the piece at different hours. In the morning, for example, the clips show people waking up, having breakfast and getting on with their day. In the middle of the night many of the clips come from horror films.

What makes the video so fascinating? Aside from its technological and conceptual brilliance, observed Allen, it “seems to present a narrative even though there isn’t one.” This partially has to do with Marclay’s editing. For example, a door opening in one segment is closing in the next, giving the impression of a progression of events. But, Allen said, “the only thing unfolding is time itself.”

The Clock can currently be seen at the Hayward in London in “The British Art Show,” through Apr. 17. It opens next at the Garage Center for Contemporary Culture, Moscow, and plans are in the works for a screening during the Venice Biennale.