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Friday, March 18, 2005

Bootlegging the Bootlegger, Anyone?

A few weeks ago, on my usual Sunday afternoon stroll, I came across an intriguing group of sculptures at Animal in the East Village.

Each work in the Contraband series is a shrink-wrapped plastic bottle containing one object that is illegal to sell, own, use, or transport. The image at right is of $100 in counterfeit U.S. currency. Other items in the series include human remains, lock picking tools, brass knuckles, telephone wiretap equipment, two ounces of moonshine, elephant ivory, and child pornography.

The art tests the limits of the law, exposing its owners and distributors to the possibility of legal action. Existing in a legal gray zone, the work is edgy and challenging in a way that has real consequences.

My interest piqued, I inquired about the cost. At $1000 each, though, my desire to own a couple pieces waned quickly.

The series is by the artist Eric Doeringer, better known for his bootlegs of work by other artists—technically impressive, miniature replicas of well-known pieces that he sells for relative pocket change. (James Wagner has great images of his latest bootleg—a Maurizio Cattelan.) I'm going to be keeping my eyes open. If I ever come across bootlegs of Doeringer’s Contraband series, I’ll jump in for a few.

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