Stanca Soare

The Dissolution of Art, 2023

6 towels handwoven from recycled fabrics and yarns, 10 handmade sculpted soaps, 10 cardboard boxes, 10 product information sheets (in collaboration with Tanti Florica)
31 x 33 cm (each towel), 8 x 10 x 6 cm (each soap), 10.2 x 15.3 x 10.2 cm (each box), 8 x 4.5 cm (each product information sheet)

The installation Precarious Tourism, comprising a video and several objects, examines the intersection of cultural and economic capital in the art world. Bringing together several concerns related to the commodification of art, the growing influence of brand marketing in the sector, and the ethical and legal issues related to cultural property, this body of work sees the artist grappling with complex questions, but from a personal perspective.

Stanca Soare’s installation is grounded in her firsthand experience as a museum employee. “It’s the object that suffers the most in the museum”, she heard her colleagues say about Bathtub, an Egyptian antiquity on view at the Louvre. In the video I Love Art But Art Doesn’t Love Me, the artist performs the typical workday of a custodian tasked with the care and security of this artefact that is touched daily by a surprisingly high number of visitors. The video alternates the filmed performance with information – presented matter-of-factly – about the cultural tourism associated with Louvre, the museum’s financial position thanks to this kind of tourism and to the export of its brand in Abu Dhabi, and the recent charges brought to its former director, who is accused of overseeing the Louvre Abu Dhabi’s acquisition of smuggled Egyptian antiquities.

The vanishing of art objects from a certain place, which equates to a diminished local heritage, led the artist to conceive of a work that renders tangible the notion of cultural preservation. The Dissolution of Art consists of ten soaps, sculpted in the shape of the aforementioned bathtub, and six towels, made in collaboration with an artisan from the village of Miroși (Argeș county), Tanti Florica. Visitors to the exhibition can make a sample soap disappear by washing their hands with it and drying them with a towel in the gallery bathroom. Although by mode of production it is the antithesis of mass-produced, machine-made items, The Dissolution of Art is presented as a gift set, similar to those one can find in a museum gift shop, raising further questions about commodifying and merchandising in the art world.

The third piece in the installation, also made in collaboration with Tanti Florica, is a handwoven rug with a hand embroidery that painstakingly recreates the same antique bathtub. Titled The Object That Suffers the Most in the Museum, the work can be used as a functional product as well. In a radical gesture, visitors are given the possibility to tread on the rug. Seemingly diverting the purpose of the object from an aesthetic experience to a utilitarian item, the artist offers a critical commentary on the way contemporary artistic production is influenced by market forces and a transactional logic.

Infiltrating the gallery bathroom as a group of undercover useful daily items, the soaps, the towels and the rug embody an emerging artist’s interest in the relationship between art objects, art institutions and their audience.