When hip-hop artist Fab 5 Freddy paid homage to Andy Warhol by painting Campbell’s soup cans on subway trains, he was uniting cultures. When Marcel Duchamp put a mustache on a Mona Lisa postcard, he was thumbing his nose at the Art World.
So when local artist Jevijoe Vitug hosted the interactive Casino Capital exhibit Friday in the Arts District, it was a familiar trip down memory lane. By transforming the New Genres Project House into a “casino,” where locals could gamble to win Damien Hirst, Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons knockoffs (“cover” art), Vitug was using the language of Las Vegas to bring art to the people while commenting on the contemporary market.
It was a brilliant game of semiotics and epistemology that could only be played here. Visitors crumpled up their dollar bills and tossed them onto an appropriated Hirst spot painting (placed flat on Campbell’s soup cans). Prizes were awarded to those who landed a dollar perfectly within a specified color, ranging from the Hirst spot painting to a Koons vacuum or a number of Campbell’s soup cans.
“In the game, you literarily throw money on the art,” Vitug says. “It’s like collectors and buyers who are just throwing money at art. If you bet on the wrong artist, you’re going to lose. You bet on the right artist, you’re going to win.”
Unfortunately, he says, the art market tends to forget the historical significance of the work, looking only at the price. And in Las Vegas, where casinos use art as a tourist attraction, appealing to some who rarely consider the work, Vitug decided to use the familiar act of gambling to present the unfamiliar, turning “What happens here …” into a perfect and hilarious happening.