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About That F#@%ing Frank Gaard T-Shirt…

One day in early 2005, I spotted Frank Gaard getting off the bus on Hennepin Avenue. Toting a pink-painted plank under his arm, he was headed my way, to the temporary offices Walker staff was occupying during construction of the new expansion. We greeted, and he showed me what he had: a going-away present for […]

Frank Gaard, I Love the Fucking Walker, 2005. Collection Philippe Vergne and Sylvia Chivaratanond

One day in early 2005, I spotted Frank Gaard getting off the bus on Hennepin Avenue. Toting a pink-painted plank under his arm, he was headed my way, to the temporary offices Walker staff was occupying during construction of the new expansion. We greeted, and he showed me what he had: a going-away present for Philippe Verne, then senior curator and Visual Arts department head. It was a sign that read, “I love the Fucking Walker.”

Vergne, who is now director of the Dia Art Foundation in New York, had invited Gaard to participate in a billboard project in downtown Minneapolis; Gaard’s work was part of a series that included pieces by Matthew Barney, Takashi Murakami, Yoko Ono, and Laylah Ali.

In an email, Vergne says Gaard submitted the original art for the project, but the billboard company rejected it. He jokes:

The billboard company did not want to print it and install it because of the word “love.” They thought the word was offensive and might shock young sensibilities. As we all know, love is a dangerous, uncontrollable emotion that leads people to behave in ways that might disrupt social order.

It smells too, at times.

But Gaard says the piece wasn’t his submission for the billboard project. Vergne, he remembers, was set to leave to head up an art center in Italy (it ultimately fell through, and he returned as chief curator), and Gaard wanted to present him with a parting gift. Painted on a “a piece of wood [he] found in a dumpster,” Gaard says it was “inspired by Philippe’s ability to see the Walker both ways, as an impediment and as a thing that can provide solace to people.”

While the piece isn’t in the Walker’s current Gaard show, it is in the Shop, reproduced on t-shirts:

Gaard says Vergne wanted to have the artwork appear on shirts years ago, but it wasn’t to be. “I think I signed a permission slip,” Gaard remembers. But now that they’re made, what’s Vergne’s response?

He emails: “I love this Fucking T-shirt.”

Frank Gaard: Poison & Candy is on view through May 6, 2012.