MoMA Will Host Martha Rosler’s Garage Sale


Did you ever want to buy something you saw at MoMA? You may have your chance in November.

As a forthcoming solo exhibition, Martha Rosler will mount “Meta-Monumental Garage Sale” in the Museum of Modern Art’s second-floor atrium. Objects donated by the artist, the public and museum staff will be for sale. Rosler will be on hand, and haggling will be allowed.

The museum has already been collecting donations from staff. “There’s a child-sized piano,” chief curator in the department of media and performance art Sabine Breitwieser told A.i.A. “It’s mostly easily portable objects so far—books, clothes, household stuff.”

She added, “The artist would love to have a car. I think she got a car when she did the project in Dublin.”

Rosler held her first garage sale in 1973 at the art gallery of the University of California, San Diego, advertising it in local newspapers as a sale as well as promoting it a performance. She’s revived the project many times since, but this is the first time it’s coming to the great temple of art museums, where it will reach a large and diverse audience.

Rosler’s political practice ranges from her Vietnam War-era “Bringing the War Home” series of photomontages, which inserted gory images of war into lifestyle magazine spreads of modern homes, to involvement with the Occupy Wall Street movement.

“It’s a little bit about the soul of the museum,” says Breitwieser. “If we all contribute, from the staff to the trustees to the public, you could say it’s a portrait of the institution that is for sale.”

Wait a minute, does that mean the soul of the institution is for sale?

“I don’t think we’re selling the soul of the museum,” Breitwieser demurred. “But we are challenging the museum.”

It’s not Breitwieser’s first time staging a Rosler garage sale. “I re-did this project with her in the mid-’90s for a retrospective I co-organized when I was the director of the Generali Foundation, in Vienna.” As for this time, says Breitwieser, “I haven’t given anything yet, but I’m sure there are things from Vienna that I donated in the mid-90s!”

If you have old record albums, baby clothes, costume jewelry or anything you want to donate, watch MoMA’s website for information about where to drop it off. “We will have drop-off points, with times announced in April. We’ll have a truck on 54th Street and another at MoMA PS1.”

Proceeds will go to four charities. “Martha doesn’t want to name them,” says Breitwieser, “because people shouldn’t feel they’re giving money to a particular charity. They’re giving to an art project–and they’re buying things!”

The project raises an implicit question: Is the museum a charity?

“That’s a good question. MoMA is a nonprofit . . . you’d have to ask the press office. I don’t want to say anything wrong.”

Photo: Rosler’s Garage Sale at the ICA London, 2005.