Basically, Frederik Nystrup-Larsen and Oliver Sundqvist want you to stop buying shit and throw it away. So now, they’re selling it back to you as a work of art. Check out our interview with the duo below.
Tell me about ‘Off License – Cash Only’.
Oliver Sundqvist - 'Off License – Cash Only’ is a pop-up storefront that sells sculptures named after real life objects. The first edition will open in Copenhagen. It’s a happening that merges the concepts of art exhibition and commercial event.
Frederik Nystrup-Larsen - The exhibition is a critique of the overconsumption of our society, but also questions the process of art valuation and channels our irrational fear of online shopping, all with a slight twist of dark humor. I don’t think we’ve ever done something that has so many layers to it.
Why make it a storefront?
OS - In London, where we’ve both been living for the last six months, off-license is a term for shops that are allowed to sell alcohol off the premises. They’re basically liquor stores, but you can buy almost anything. In one place we went to, they had New Year’s decorations for sale in the summer. There was something really fascinating about these shops and all the weird stuff they were selling. At the same time, we’ve been having a lot of discussions about the way art is valued and sold compared to other commodities. Somewhere along the road, we stumbled upon Claes Oldenburgs ‘The Store’, a happening circumventing the traditional art gallery by selling sculptures through a storefront on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in 1961, and we decided to use his work as a reference for our store in Copenhagen. We’ve rented a retail space just off the central main street, and we’re hiring sales assistants to serve the customers.
So, you’re essentially turning the process of buying art into a shopping experience—like getting yourself a new pair of shoes.
FNL - You could say that, yes. And simultaneously, we’re transforming the shopping experience into an art exhibition. We call it a sculpture supermarket.
You say the exhibition is a critique of overconsumption. How so?
FNL - Personally, I become so annoyed, almost angry, when I see the kind of shitty things people mindlessly buy for themselves. That goes for food, fashion, furniture and so many other things that we consume on a regular basis. We’ve been quite concerned about sustainability for a while and that shows in all our work. For instance, all the materials of the sculptures for ‘Off License – Cash Only’ are made out of trash. It’s basically polished pieces of garbage made from of all the things people throw out that we’re now selling back to them.
That’s a bit ironic.
FNL - I guess it is. But we hope that it will encourage people to question their habits as consumers.
The project is inspired by Claes Oldenburg. But he made objects that actually looked like the things they represented. Yours don’t. Why?
OS - You know that feeling of buying something off a slightly sketchy online store, and when you open the package, what you see is completely different from the product images? That’s what we’re aiming for here. What we did was to take photos of the sculptures and send them to India where a company retouched them for us, making them look all shiny and perfect. Then we posted them on Instagram without stating the size of any of them. When people enter the store, they’ll find out that both the size and the finish of the sculptures look completely different from the images on Instagram.
FNL - We also bought a bunch of fake followers. I tried to buy 100.000 but got tricked and ended up getting just 20.000, but that’s actually a perfect number. If we had too many followers, people would obviously know that it’s fake but now, they aren’t sure whether it’s real or not. We’re poking at people’s critical sense by serving them something that’s not completely transparent.
Do you think people will get what you’re trying to communicate here?
OS - Hopefully, the Instagram-profile will make them so intrigued that they’ll show up to the opening just to see what the fuck is going on. And when they enter the store, I think the coin will drop. We’re really excited to see how people will react to this method of displaying and selling art. In that sense, the exhibition is an experiment for us as well.
Usually, the price tag of an emerging artist is supposed to go up from exhibition to exhibition. Here, you can buy an original work of art by Frederik-Nystrup Larsen and Oliver Sundqvist for less than two dollars. Is that wise?
OS - We had a lot of discussions with our gallerist about this and from a financial point of view, this exhibition probably makes no sense. But we’re so tired of the traditionalist ways of the art world and at the same time, we want our work to be democratic and accessible, though we might not be able to keep it that way because of how the art market works. The price range goes from a 1.5-dollar avocado to a sculpture titled ‘Convertible Soft-Top Sports Car (2013, 418.429 km)’ at $10.000.
You mentioned that this is just the first edition. Where will the store go next?
FNL - We don’t know yet. Maybe New York, maybe New Delhi. But we’re excited to see how the exhibition will be received and evolve from city to city.
‘Off License – Cash Only’ will open on August 28th in Copenhagen.