One person's trash is another person's treasure.
That's the theory behind Martha Rosler's "Meta-Monumental Garage Sale," a large-scale version of the classic commercial tradition that will, quite literally, be open for business at the Museum of Modern Art starting Nov. 17.
Rosler will always be at the exhibit, her first solo show at the museum, to run the sale, according to the museum's press release. Museum visitors will have the opportunity to haggle for goods donated by the public, the artist and museum staff - and then take pictures with the items they score.
The artist first became interested in the garage sale format when she moved from New York to southern California, where the “phenomenon” was much more prevalent.
"I was struck by the strange nature of these events, their informal economic status and self-centeredness, but also the way they implicated the community in the narrative of the residents' lives," Rosler said in an interview with the exhibit's curator, Sabine Breitwieser, for MoMA's website.
The second-hand goods up for grabs at MoMA are in flux since the museum just recently solicited . Records, posters, "good art and bad art" - and "obsolete science textbooks" are just some of the knick-knacks the artist requests.
Most of the donations so far have been "easily portable objects," Breitwieser told Art in America back in March. But there are some that stand out - namely, a child-size piano.
This is far from Rosler's first garage sale. In fact, you could say she's quite the regular.
Her first took place in 1973 at a University of California, San Diego, art gallery — an exhibit she advertised "as a garage sale in local newspapers and as an art event within the local art scene."
Rosler told Breitwieser that her first sale was designed to create a space “where the question of worth and value, use and exchange, [were] both glaringly placed front and center and completely represented and denied.”
Since then Rosler has made a name for herself through her political photomontages, such as her Vietnam War-era series, “Bringing the War Home."
But "Garage Sale" has continued to go on the road.
Among other institutions, it was displayed at the New Museum in 2000 and the Institute of Contemporary Arts in Britain in 2005 — and has accumulated new "merchandise" along the way.
Proceeds from the MoMA sale will go to charity - but Rosler is keeping mum on exactly which charities they’ll be.
"Martha doesn't want to name them," Breitwieser told Art in America, "because people shouldn't feel they're giving money to a particular charity. They're giving to an art project--and they're buying things!"