Rob Pruitt: Everything Must Go



Rob Pruitt‘s current show in New York, at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise and Maccarone, sees the artist balancing relentless personal accumulation and expurgation. The ethos permeated another form this past Saturday afternoon, when the artist sold his personal belongings at a flea market, at the Opening Ceremony in the Ace Hotel, with all of the proceeds of the sale going to The Trevor Project, a hotline for gay and questioning youth inspired by the recent suicide of an outed college student. For weeks preceding the final sale, Pruitt had displayed the personal items he planned to sell in the windows, both drumming up excitement and mimicking the technique he uses in his art shows.

We arrived at the boutique early, when there were still plenty of wares to browse through.  Draped and wedged between the merchandise sold by Opening Ceremony were stacks of books with titles like Tiny Houses, old records that included selections for people who may have a predilection for Hello Dolly! and a gilded marble and glass end table that looked like it had descended from the living room of Tony Soprano. There was a feather-bowered lighting fixture decorated with violet flower appliques and marked “eleganté lamp $100,” a prop stick of dynamite and a pair of old ballet slippers. There were items for your home, like porcelain candle sticks with bases shaped like daisies, items for your mind, like the Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, and items for your soul, like a pair of wooden crosses.

Next to a shelf full of items that included a dilapidated pair of Tom’s shoes was a shopping cart full of bags of glitter, marked “Rob Pruitt’s glitter, $25/bag, $100 signed.” And next to the glitzy array was Pruitt himself, ready to increase the value of any or all of the sacks of sparkle. When friends like Michael Stipe and Spike Jonze came by, Pruitt asked them to sign the objects, and increase their values further.

I couldn’t help but ask Pruitt which of the items he was most reluctant to part with. “The 1987 Stephen Sprouse suit with the Andy Warhol camouflage print,” he said, not missing a beat. He led me outside, where the suit was hanging on a sales rack in the sun, guarded by an Opening Ceremony employee, and showed me the tag. “It’s a reminder of when I was a waist size 32,” he explained to me, admitting he hadn’t worn the suit since 1989. But for what kind of event, I wondered aloud, would one wear a yellow, pink and blue camouflage suit? “I just wore it around the house, when I was watching TV,” Pruitt said. “I like to dress up when I’m home alone.”

We walked back inside, and parted at a case that included a selection of chopstick holders, and a gigantic hourglass. “If there’s nothing interesting to say, just make it up,” Pruitt told me as I turned towards the door.