The Gift
Le Cadeau
Das Geschenk

Le Fresnoy, France 2000; Dortmund, Germany 2000
San Francisco CA, USA 2008-2009
Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, Lansing MI, USA
2012-2013
In the spring of 2000, Jochen Gerz was invited as a visiting professor to the National Studio of Contemporary Arts Le Fresnoy. During this time, he initiated an exhibition of photography, inviting the inhabitants of this area close to the Franco-Belgian border to have, over one weekend, their portrait taken by young artists. They were to be both the models of the work, the participants and the collectors, since, after an exhibition
showing all the photographs, each participant was to receive a portrait.

702 people from the cities of Lille, Tourcoing and Roubaix, as well as other areas in northern France and in Belgium replied to the invitation of a regional newspaper. At the end of the exhibition
of all the portraits,every participant of The Gift returned to Le Fresnoy in order to receive as a gift their image. Yet to
everybody’s surprise they did not receive their own photograph but the portrait of another person, a stranger, randomly assigned.

The starting point for this work was the change that the former popular sports and entertainment centre Le Fresnoy had undergone
in order to become the National Studio for Contemporary Arts and the art school. For the local population the transformation
seemed overshadowed by the loss of the very familiar site. Many people who participated in The Gift returned for the first time
to Le Fresnoy since its transformation.

In a poor and popular area with a high unemployment rate, the work created a permanent 'public' collection of photographic portraits
in private homes, which would otherwise not have become the site
of contemporary art.

In the same year a second version of the work, Das Geschenk, was realized in Dortmund during “vision.ruhr". As a contribution
to this exhibition, Gerz had a photo lab installed. Visitors to
the exhibition were invited to have their portrait photographed
by art students. 5,000 people had their portrait done and again
left with the portrait of a stranger to install at home.

A 3rd version of the work The Gift took place at the San Francisco
Museum of Modern Art, from 8/11/08 to 9/2/09, during the exhibition
"Art of Participation - 1950 to now". Again, visitors to the exhibition were invited to have their portrait photographed by
art students. The museum, in collaboration with the Daily Examiner, offered 2,000 portraits which were distributed on the last day of the exhibition

The Gift: Lansing, Michigan, 2012/2013 breaks down the traditional divide between viewer and art object, putting the viewer
literally into the work of art. Simultaneously, the process of making and installing objects normally done before a visitor
ever encounters the work - becomes an active and visible part of the museum experience. Ultimately, the work questions traditional ideas of authorship, but also traditional ideas of ownership
through its final component: Each visitor who participates is invited to return to the museum at a later date to receive
a framed portrait from the artist. These works are considered
to be “on permanent loan" from the museum, extending the collection of a public institution out into the world of endless private installations in motion.


Object: 3 ads in the newspaper 'Nord
Éclair', 500 posters (120 x 178cm), put up
in the 87 urban districts of Greater
Lille, 2 large banners (165 m2).
Catalogue: All portraits appear in a 720-
page catalogue.


Publication:
- Le Cadeau, Le Fresnoy, Studio national
des arts contemporains 2000 (French)

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http://www.sfmoma.org/exhib_events/exhibitions/details/aop_the_gift