January 31, 2023

An Australian artist’s work with a pickle of a McDonalds cheeseburger stuck to a ceiling has raised the age-old question: What is art?

The artwork, creatively named ‘Pickle’ by Sydney artist Matthew Griffin, is part of the Hosting Fine Arts, Sydney exhibition currently on display at the Michael Lett Gallery in Auckland, New Zealand.

It displays a small piece of pickle on an immaculate white ceiling as part of the exhibition of modern abstract works on display until July 30.

Sydney Fine Arts Director Ryan Moore said the ‘Pickle’ exhibition will mean different things to different people ‘but that’s the point’.

“People don’t have to think it’s art if they don’t want to,” Moore said.

‘Everything can be a work of art, but not everything is. That’s often what it’s about.’

Griffin’s work is known for ‘[combining] a wry humor with a DIY sensibility in his sculptures, photography, videos and installations,” notes the Museum of Contemporary Art.

‘His playful approach, often mixing high and popular culture references, conceals a sharper critique of truth, authenticity and the construction of images in a digital age.’

“Meaning and value are things that we as humans create together – in art or in any other area of ​​life,” added Mr. Moore.

What makes a work of art is when everything an artist makes or does can be used as art: when the object or action is thought or spoken of as a work of art. And that’s what we do here, I think it’s great.’

An image of the work shared on Instagram attracted mostly positive reactions.

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“I can taste this photo,” commented one person.

“Perfection,” another estimated the work.

“I love it,” wrote a third.

Griffin described his work on his Instagram as “a sculpture consisting of the slice of pickle from a McDonalds cheeseburger thrown onto the ceiling.”

One of Griffin’s earlier works, “Anywhere but here,” featured an old plastic chair — similar to one you’d see in a school classroom — precariously balanced on a ceramic dolphin, with a balloon floating above it, blown by a hair dryer with the words ‘everywhere but here’ written.

Another of his works, ‘Aske’, was an interactive piece that, according to MCA, ‘responds to human presence with unexpected and alarming action’.

It was made of a cardboard cylinder with an image of a face with cut-out eyes. When a spectator approached, ping pong balls would shoot out of the empty eye sockets.

This was done via a motion sensor connected to a hair dryer that propelled the ping pong balls upwards.

Other abstract works currently on display at Sydney’s MCA include Juliette Blightman, Prudence Flint and Yona Lee.

Flint’s work entitled ‘Banana’ is a stencil on a piece of paper depicting a seated lady eating a banana.

In Juliette Blightman’s work ‘Pseudopanax’, a 60-minute loop of sound is played through a small loudspeaker – which starts every hour – next to a potted plant.

While one may wonder whether a slice of pickle hanging from the ceiling is really ‘art’, modern abstract works in various forms can attract serious money from collectors.

In 2021, for example, a digital artwork that only exists as a JPG file sold for $69.3 million after listing for just $100 — making American creator Beeple the third most valuable living artist behind Jeff Koons and David Hockney.

Another recent sale in 2021 was of an invisible sculpture that brought in more than $22,000.

Sardinian-born Salvatore Garau, 67, sold the artwork, titled ‘I am’, to an unknown buyer earlier this month (photo, Garau in 2016)

Sardinian-born Salvatore Garau, 67, sold the artwork, titled “I am,” to an unknown buyer and gave them a certificate of authenticity to prove it was genuine.

How much money Griffin’s Pickle would attract remains an open question, especially since most people can easily recreate it at their nearest fast food restaurant.