conceptual art, contemporary installation

Danh Vo, Das Beste oder Nichts (2010)

October 26, 2014

2014-10-22 10_Fotor

Where you might expect to find a detail such as ‘oil on canvas’, or ‘cast bronze’, or even ‘car engine’, Vo gives us the full scoop on his indecorous found object. A wall plaque opens the bonnet.

Indeed. This contemporary sculpture is comprised of “The engine of the artist’s father Phung Vo’s Mercedes Benz.” Provenance is all: from family car to museum collection.

And in the year this piece was made, Mercedes began using the German title as their advertising slogan. So there are two found objects working together like piston and cylinder in this work.

This is a family who fled their home and, after a dramatic rescue at sea, they settled in Denmark. A keen business sense spurred the artist’s father on to buy ‘the best or nothing at all’.

In a pristine gallery, this piece is monstrous. And there is something oedipal about its evisceration of his father’s achievements. Does Vo junior refer to das Beste with pride or with irony?

Dad made it as a businessman; this is his portrait. He must have once have dreamed about owning this car; he might not have dreamed about the extra mileage it would give his son.

In a white cube such as this, Phung Vo’s car becomes a bride stripped bare, a commodity divested of fetishism, a map of desire, and a deconstruction of a luxury brand. All thanks to the label.

This piece can be seen until 3 May 2015 in The Art of Our Time: Masterpieces of the Guggenheim Collection at the Museo Guggenheim in Bilbao.

1 Comment

  • Reply Dan Leng October 27, 2014 at 6:22 pm

    Both the artwork and your written piece leave me with lot to think about. More questions and possibilities than answers… a wonderful awakening for my brain on this monday morning. Thanks.

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