For $2,500, Brooklyn artist invites 1% to take home complaints of the 99%
An Armory Show attendee examines Sebastian Errazuriz's Occupy Chairs in New York.
March 9th, 2012
11:03 AM ET

For $2,500, Brooklyn artist invites 1% to take home complaints of the 99%

Sebastian Errazuriz is at it again, making political statements with his art. This time, the target is the 1% - of which he may be a member when the art exhibit is through.

The Chilean-born artist used placards from the Occupy Wall Street movement as his muse and painted some of the movement's slogans onto wooden fold-out chairs. The acrylic paint messages include, "Hungry? Eat a Banker," "Kill Corporate Greed" and "Too Big to Fail is Too Big to Allow."

"The artist wishes to support the 99% by inviting collectors (representing the 1%) to purchase the complaints as art or furniture, thus introducing the ideas of one group into the homes of another and at the same time getting the rich to support the cause of the 99%," a news release states.

There are eight Occupy Chairs, and 10 of each design. The eight designs are on display at the Cristina Grajales Gallery booth at the Armory Show, an annual modern art fair in Manhattan that began Thursday and runs through the weekend.

Though Errazuriz, 34, doesn't shy away from bold statements - such as, say, planting 1,100 crosses under the Brooklyn Bridge to highlight the number of deaths in New York each week - his latest endeavor made him nervous.

"I honestly didn't know if the 1% would buy the Occupy Chairs or feel attacked and insulted," he said. "The other gallery people looked at us like, 'What the hell are (they) doing bringing protest signs to an art fair focused on collectors who are obviously all 1%?' "

He noticed, however, that the union workers setting up the booths had a markedly different take. They were calling their buddies over, "grinning happily, fishing out their phones and taking snapshots of the chairs," Errazuriz said.

Though many of Errazuriz's projects focus on the "dichotomies of life and death," he has made his share of political statements. In 2006, he planted a magnolia tree at midfield of Chile's National Stadium where dictator Augusto Pinochet tortured and killed political prisoners in 1973. A year earlier, he made a coat out of teddy bears as a statement on the comeback of fur on fashion runways.

The Occupy Chairs were inspired by placards from the Occupy Wall Street movement, the artist says.

He’s also created furniture and sculptures and designed clothing, including sexy dresses made of latex gloves or zippers.

Last time we checked in on Errazuriz in 2010, he was highlighting the U.S. military suicide rate by turning the cinder-block wall outside his Brooklyn studio into an art fixture. The public art display demonstrated how many troops had been killed in combat versus how many took their own lives.

Of his latest project, Errazuriz said he was surprised by the popularity of the Occupy Chairs. On the first day of the Armory Show, he sold a dozen of them. The price tag? A hefty $2,500 apiece.

"I was hoping to be able to tempt a few collectors to take the complaint signs home. I never expected them to become a great sale," he said.

The news release about his exhibit says that Errazuriz is donating a portion of the proceeds to the Occupy movement, but he won't disclose if he will donate 99% or succumb to his own greed and give 1%.

Pressed on the question Friday, Errazuriz told CNN that it was more a matter of soul searching than a marketing gimmick.

"Leaving the percentage of the donation a mystery was to question my own motives and gauge my own temptation, depending on the amount sold," he said.

He concedes that his decision got a lot tougher after sales surpassed his expectations - to the tune of $30,000 in one day.

"I figured if I sold one or two, donating most of the money seemed easy. Now that the amounts are higher, the temptation naturally gets a lot stronger, and I start getting a glimpse of what the 1% probably feels."

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Filed under: Art • Chile • Economy • New York • Occupy Wall Street • Protest • U.S.
soundoff (353 Responses)
  1. Starvist

    Sebastien proves there wss never such thing as 'the starving artist'. You can teach at Harvard now Sebastien.

    March 9, 2012 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Starvist

    Sebastien proves there was never such thing as 'the starving artist'. You can teach at Harvard now Sebastien.

    March 9, 2012 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Silver Lining

    This reminds me of a story in germany where the cleaning lady of an art gallery thought a $5 million art piece was a pile of garbage and cleaned it up. If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck...

    March 9, 2012 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Shawn Irwin

    This is not exactly abstract art, but Albert Camus once said "Abstract Art: A product of the untalented, sold by the unprincipled to the utterly bewildered." That applies quite well to this too.

    March 9, 2012 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • yahmez the mad

      Spot on, 10 internets for you, sir!

      March 10, 2012 at 4:49 am | Report abuse |
  5. Jim

    Oh, we could insult you, alright, and it doesn't have to come from the 1%. This guy's worse than any "banker"...

    March 9, 2012 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
  6. ForGoodOfAll

    Hey, if he makes a few bucks selling these 'art' pieces, hats off to him. At least he is trying to make a living & pay his bills.

    March 9, 2012 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
  7. MikeH

    He should be donating 100% of the proceeds to the 99%, because without them, he wouldn't have any money coming in, but of course, he is no better than the corporations he calims to be against, by earning money off the backs of the poor

    March 9, 2012 at 7:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • dash9231

      Ya, because yo totallyu wouldn't do the same. Hypocrite....

      March 9, 2012 at 8:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • DK

      The 99% aren't buying his art, it's for the 1%…duh, you truly frightening.

      March 9, 2012 at 10:31 pm | Report abuse |
  8. SPENT

    Ignorant: They got the materials to use to make the sign from the very people they are protesting.

    March 9, 2012 at 8:15 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Brain Cell #5

    @ InHoustonTx Billionaires are not the 1% you tool! The 1% has more wealth than the 99% combined. Let's say billionaires are the elite. Are you saying the wealth of 99% of people is less than a billion? Derp. (We can argue and say that since every citizen inherits what, $80,000 debt upon birth that the wealth of the 99% combined is in fact less than a billion, but that simply is not reality as this deficit ultimately comes not from the decisions and debt of individuals but of the government/military industrial complex). With 8% unemployment, you can bet your sweet ass the 99% net worth combined is far more than a billion.

    The elite prefer that you do not know how much money they have or who they are. They want you to think Oprah and friends are the elite, while they sit back and run the federal reserve and the international banks and lose track of countless trillions of US dollars that they themselves admit they cannot account for. Derp.

    March 9, 2012 at 8:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Why Use Facts

      To be in the top 1% of American taxpayers you only have to make $350K. You don't have to be a billionaire.

      March 10, 2012 at 6:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Lee S

      You do realize that salary isnt exclusive to bankers and executives right? A lot of peole that own small businesses clear that much in a yr.

      March 10, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • .

      According to Obozo, it's $250k. And if you live in the Northeast and just bought a modest home for $600k but you and your wife make $250k, you're standing in water up to your nose trying to breathe.

      And you're looking at Obozo like he's an idiot, which he is.

      March 10, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • TriXen

      Agreed!

      March 10, 2012 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • me

      agreed!

      March 10, 2012 at 7:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • migeli

      A "modest home for 600k?". Must be nice.

      March 11, 2012 at 4:14 am | Report abuse |
    • tacc2

      "Only" 300K...

      March 11, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • lefty avenger

      We'll have to start breaking up the final 1% into categories to make this more factual. The top .01% are really doing sweet.

      March 11, 2012 at 8:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jorge Sanchez

      I thought it was $250,000.00

      March 13, 2012 at 9:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Sugarbooger

      And your use of name calling and the term 'Derp' just solidifies you know not what you speak of

      March 10, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ron in calif

      Oprah runs the federal reserve? I did not know that.

      March 10, 2012 at 10:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • What?

      Your choise of name is wonderful. It appears you actually are somehow functioning on a single brain cell.

      March 13, 2012 at 8:32 am | Report abuse |
  10. intencity77

    @Brain Cell #5...Trust me, I'm from Houston, and most people down here are tools when it comes to equality or politics!

    March 9, 2012 at 8:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • T

      I feel sorry for you. You should move and not be forced to live in such a terrible place. Oh wait, you probably have a job and move here. Maybe you can find a job in a better city – maybe LA, SF, Porland, NYC, etc.

      March 11, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Belky

    I should take a dump on a piece of wood, paint it pink and call it something like “A troubled world” then repeat this process a dozen times and use a different color scheme for each poop on a piece of wood I make, then put it up for sale as art. I could get rich!

    March 9, 2012 at 9:31 pm | Report abuse |
  12. xnay

    CNN still trying to keep this going?

    March 9, 2012 at 10:09 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Flakman08

    Yep...lets redistribute America's wealth!! oh, wait....thats COMMUNISM! How about we focus more on changing loophole laws and set a flat tax rate and do something productive rather than whine and punish the successfull...and this is coming from someone in the lower middle class...

    March 9, 2012 at 10:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • yahmez the mad

      There's gonna be fakes on E-Bay tonight!

      March 10, 2012 at 4:52 am | Report abuse |
  14. DK

    Granted it might be a ridiculous exhibit, but the astounding amount of ill will towards the working people in this country is revolting. The top 1% is making a concerted effect to destroy the American Dream and all I see is ignorance towards our way of life being torn down.

    You people are ridiculous.

    March 9, 2012 at 10:48 pm | Report abuse |
  15. DK

    Granted it might be a ridiculous exhibit, but the astounding amount of ill will towards the working people in this country is revolting. The top 1% is making a concerted effect to destroy the American Dream and all I see is ignorance towards our way of life being torn down.

    March 9, 2012 at 10:49 pm | Report abuse |
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