The Gift

Das Geschenk

Le Cadeau

CR 874. Year 2000

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    The various forms of the dialog create and give expression to awareness, and human awareness is the work’s true site.

    Andreas Hapkemeyer 1999

    The object of modernity - the closed artwork - is being staged performatively and concludes in an action. Since the 60s artists have not any longer only been producing isolated objects, but communicative acts. It is about an enormous transition from a culture of producers towards a culture of recipients, from the object towards the action, from the action towards the interaction between people and the object/machine.

    Peter Weibel 2004. Translated by e_CR editors

    Ultimately The Gift questions traditional ideas of authorship, but also of ownership through its final component: Each participant is invited to return to the museum at a later date to receive a (not his or her own) portrait. These works are considered to be „on permanent loan“ from the museum, extending the collection of a public institution out into the world of endless private installations in motion.

    Broad Art Museum Lansing, MI 2012/2013

    ...(Gerz) returned to the museum for the final act of giving away the pictures to 800 returning visitors, thus reversing the museumification process of objects by distributing to its participants what the museum had originally produced. While the work’s relationship to its producers was initially one of identification and recognition, individual participants even came back during the exhibition and took pictures of themselves in front of their framed portrait, the relational character of The Gift then changing to a subjective dialog with “the other”, a personality that was only known in cases of chance encounters.... For Gerz, the important shift lies in the recognition that the work is constituted by an act of sharing a public collection, which turns the museum into one of its shareholders without any right of exclusivity. In fact, the work is constantly in a state of circulation.

    C.E. Beryl Graham 2014

    Public authorship

    Le Fresnoy, France. Dortmund, Germany. San Francisco, CA, USA. Lansing MI, USA

    Le Fresnoy: 702 photographic portraits, each 60 x 50 cm, framed
    Dortmund: 4889 photographic portraits, each 60 x 50 cm, framed
    San Francisco: 1860 photographic portraits, each 60 x 50 cm, framed
    Lansing: 1183 photographic portraits, each 60 x 50 cm, framed

    Working as a visiting professor at the National Studio of Contemporary Arts Le Fresnoy, Jochen Gerz proposed opening the doors of the studio to the regional community. The Nord Eclair newspaper ran full-page ads inviting the residents of Tourcoing, Roubaix, Lille and the area near the Franco-Belgian border to visit Le Fresnoy and have their portraits taken by young artists. The 702 portraits realised during the project were exhibited at the Fresnoy and distributed to the participants after the show. Each participant took home the portrait of another person.

    In Dortmund, 4889 visitors to the VISION RUHR exhibition at the Zeche Zollern had their portraits taken by art students. After the exhibition, visitors here also agreed to take home the portrait of a stranger. All contributions were published in a 29-page insert of the daily newspaper Westfälische Rundschau.

    During The Art of Participation exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art 1860 visitors had their portraits taken as part of The Gift. The portraits were exhibited in the museum and published in The Examiner. At the end of the exhibition, participants received a portrait of a different person as a gift.

    The distributed portraits remain part of the public collections of the organizing museums.

    Museum Ostwall im Dortmunder U, Dortmund.
    San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco.
    Studio National d'Art Contemporain Le Fesnoy, Tourcoing.
    Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, Lansing MI, USA


    Le Fresnoy: Studio national des arts contemporains Le Fresnoy, Tourcoing, Roubaix and Lille, Ecole Régionale des Beaux Arts de Dunkerque, photographers from the region, project laboratory with students from Fresnoy, Nord Éclair, Lille Métropole Communauté Urbaine, La Caisse d’Epargne de Flandre, la Cité Numérique, l’ERSEP de Tourcoing

    Dortmund: VISION.RUHR (Kulturbetriebe der Stadt Dortmund, Landschaftsverband Westfalen/Lippe, Westfälisches Industriemuseum Zeche Zollern II/IV Dortmund), Museum am Ostwall, Dortmund/project laboratory with 36 students from Fachhochschule Dortmund, Westfälische Rundschau

    San Francisco: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, project laboratory with students, The Examiner

    Lansing: Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, project laboratory with students, City Pulse newspaper


    702 (Le Fresnoy)
    4889 (VISION RUHR)
    1860 (SF.MOMA)
    1183 (Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, Lansing)


    Le Fresnoy, 30.3.-2.4.2000
    Dortmund, 20.5-20.8.2000
    San Francisco, 8.11.2008-8.2.2009
    Lansing, 29.10.2012-10.11.2012


    Tourcoing 2000. Dortmund 2000. Frankfurt 2000. San Francisco 2008, Lansing 2012-2013


    I: Tourcoing 2000. Milano 2001. San Francisco 2008/London 2009. Ivry-sur-Seine 2017

    II: Ed. 2, 2000. Ed. 3, 2000. Ed. 4, 2000. Ed. 5, 2000. Red. 6, 2000. Ed. 7, 2000. Ed. 8, 2000. Ed. 9, 2000. Red. 1, 2008. Ed. 54, 2009. Ardenne 2000. Bréerette 2000. Danelzik-Brüggemann 2000. Defives 2000. Delevoye 2000. Imdahl 2000. Lettmann 2000. Mecklenbrauck 2000. Posca 2000. Restorff 2000. Rondeau 2000. Rousseau 2000. Sabéran 2000. Schmid 2000. Strecker 2000. Thély 2000. Wanzelius 1, 2000. Wanzelius 2, 2000. Wanzelius 3, 2000. Ed. 1, 2008. Cohen 2008. Ed. 54, 2009

    IV: San Francisco 2008. East Lansing 2012

    IV: Köln 3, 2011, video (German)

    V: Delleaux 2010. Frieling 2010.

    Access general bibliography

    Exhibition of the Public Collection

    Therouanne 2021

    My name is Jochen Gerz