Monday, April 9, 2007
Toothpaste art in NYC
So I'm wandering through SoHo on a recent trip to NYC, when I pass a grafitti covered door that's vaguely inviting me to come inside. The sign appears to be for a shop... though I'm not entirely sure. Climbing the steps, I'm still not sure if I'm about to enter a hyper-trendy shop, an after-hours club that's still going from the night before, or a crack house. But, alas, after a long flight of creaky stairs and a couple of turns, I find myself in Kiosk.
Featuring no more than two dozen seemingly random items from a single country (the country changes every few months, according to the owner's travel schedule), the blank space highlights the simplicity of the items proffered. Furniture shims, chocolate, toothpaste... it takes the attention of a gallery-goer to let the theme eventually sink in. These are items that are perfect in their simplicity, everyday items that are so taken for granted by the natives that no one would ever think of exporting them.
Sparingly set on simple shelves, with thoughtful note-card descriptions, the mundane items become art, commerce and cultural anthropology all in one. And you can buy it. Of particular note to me, of course, was the Ajona Toothpaste, which the owner described as, "A German punch in the face!" Only $8 a tube. Yet, I was happy to pay it. Because while dozens of high-end stores have no problem selling high-design product that's no better than generic, here was a curator who was willing to devote rather expensive floor space to a rather generic product made art through the simple act of her observation.
I finally got around to reading the store's manifesto: "We opened the store to provide an antidote to overdesign," it read. "We consider the items we stock to be straight-forward and beautiful for their simplicity and directness. Their beauty is sometimes hard to see in today's oversaturated market. Our motivation is to shed some light on their quiet perfection."
For a stumbled-upon store, Kiosk is a true work of found art.