What is it?
A series of 15 pouches made from hand-printed African fabric with chain. They were produced for Parkett Magazine in 1993 in an edition of 180.
What was the idea behind them?
The pouches were designed to carry an edition of Parkett, so that the magazine’s logo is just revealed above the chain. It is essentially a joke by the artist, whose Pouch for Parkett is quite literally a pouch for Parkett. Franz West was always attracted to works that were willfully unserious, yet not necessarily in a detached, ironic fashion—there was often a mood of conviviality to his approach.
How does it fit into West's oeuvre?
Much of Franz West’s work maintained an overall strategy of audience participation. His Pouch for Parkett interacts with the wearer of the pouch and in that sense is linked to his famous series of Adaptives—sculptures that were worn by the viewer which contorted and trapped their body into bizarre positions. The wearers of the West’s pouch, carrying the Parkett magazine, are equally trapped, this time in an unwilling act of marketing. They become involved in the magazine’s promotion—a walking advertisement for the biannual publication.
So it is the action the pouches incite that interests West.
In some ways this is an unusual work for the artist in that it is a “useful article for a specific purpose.” He always believed that “it doesn't matter what the art looks like but how it is used” and would have enjoyed the uncertainty stemming from the pouches, fascinated by that “moment of not knowing what to do next… the gestures become a little bit like art.”
What about the African fabric?
West is using fabric that nearly everyone has encountered before being sold at the side of the road and in markets—fabrics from the sidewalk economy. These bright and decorative fabrics are unmistakeably African and give the pouches an exotic and distinctly unwestern feel.
What does it go for at auction?
When the pouches were first released in 1993 they were sold for $200—they sell for many times more than that price now. Since the artist’s death in 2012 no pouches have been put up for auction.
For the first time ever all 15 pouches are currently on display at Parkett's exhibition space in an exhibition entitled “In Tune With The Theme” in Zurich. Over sixty editions made for Parkett will be on show. The exhibition is centered around this year’s Manifesta 11, “What People Do for Money”, curated by Christian Jankowski, also held this year in Zurich.