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. migeli

    Im just learning here help me understand t communist chis.If socialism and communism dont work why are we sending all our jobs to communist countries and we have to borrow trillions of dollars from them.

    March 12, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  2. lmc2

    So now that he's made $30,000 in one day, he knows how the 1% feels. Gee, let me take a guess at which he is going to choose to be part of.

    March 12, 2012 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
  3. chris

    Galleries, auction houses, museums invite lists are full of the 1% names. The arts are widely supported by the 1%. I do find it a bit odd though that this artist puts. "Too Big To Fail" on a chair known for it's stability. Sort of miss-stepped on that one. Personally I don't consider this guy part of the 99% at all...he has a mind that is inventing ideas which have value and profiting from those ideas. Isn't that completely against the Occupy movement? 2500.00 for a chair!!!! Sounds greedy to me.

    March 12, 2012 at 8:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thomas Payne

      Not greedy. Enterprising. You have been brainwashed beyond belief. Anyone who accomplishes anything and makes money is now the enemy, according to dimwit obama. Hey obama: GO TO HELL !!

      March 12, 2012 at 11:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jorge Sanchez

      99% of Americans are poor? That's news to me!! What happened to the middle and working class?

      March 13, 2012 at 9:38 am | Report abuse |
  4. chris

    I want to buy one myself, lean back on it's stable, supportive back and read my copy of Atlas Shrugged, video tape my reading it and post on Youtube.

    March 12, 2012 at 9:28 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Texas Coyote

    If anyone asks yet again, why the OCCUPIERS (OCCUPY is a world wide permanent protest movement for justice and more equity for the working class!) all over the United States and World are protesting. Listen up! “You control our world. You've poisoned the air we breathe, contaminated the water we drink, and copyrighted the food we eat. We fight in your wars, die for your causes, and sacrifice our freedoms to protect you. You've liquidated our savings, destroyed our middle class, and used our tax dollars to bailout your unending greed. We are slaves to your corporations, zombies to your airwaves, servants... to your decadence. You've stolen our elections, assassinated our leaders, and abolished our basic human rights as human beings. You own our property, shipped away our jobs, and shredded our unions. You've profited off of disaster, destabilized our currencies, and raised our cost of living while lowering our wages. You've monopolized our freedom, stripped away our education, and have almost extinguished our flame. Now you are trying to silence us by making our U.S. Congress create and pass SOPA/PIPA type legislation that cripples/sabotages the internet so that we can no longer communicate effectively!! We are hit...we are bleeding... but we ain't got time to bleed. We will bring the giants to their knees and you will witness our revolution! WAKE UP AMERICA! SUPPORT OCCUPY!

    March 12, 2012 at 9:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • What?

      So, what is OWS all about? That doesn't really explain anything it is just a rant crying about you, you , you.

      March 13, 2012 at 8:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Neil

      I have an idea. You put up your money, you take the risk of losing everything and then, if your lucky enought to make it.....give it all away because you don't deserve it.

      The OWS people make me sick.

      March 13, 2012 at 9:08 am | Report abuse |
    • mugsy

      it's offical, the ole texas coyote is off his meds, some day try taking responability for your actions and your situation, stop blaming everyone and everyhting for your misery. Your life is empty, we realize that, find a hobby, contribute something to society, you'll find it very refreshing.

      March 13, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
  6. chris

    What I love about this article is that this guy aligns himself with the Occupy Movement and pledges his support by saying he'll donate his profits to the movement, but then when he actually comes up with an idea that succeeds and makes him 30,000 dollars in one day he questions how much he should donate to the cause. Fact is what he just illustrated is better than his art. He illustrated that the American Dream is alive and healthy, that good creative ideas ARE rewarded and that people who come up with the ideas have doubt when asked to give what they earned to those who well...just walk the streets with signs, live in tents and bang on drums. What his indecision is saying is that why should he give away what his great idea earned him to those who just complain about our system of economics. I love it. And that is the ART!

    March 12, 2012 at 11:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Eliott C. McLaughlin

      Just to clarify, Chris, he actually announced before the art show that he would give 1% or 99%, so it's not like he changed his mind or anything. He said that before the $30,000. I actually felt he was being extremely open and frank to say, on the record, that his decision got tougher after he sold 12 of the chairs for $30,000.

      March 13, 2012 at 8:51 am | Report abuse |
    • David

      Sebastian discovered a prospective business opportunity to capitalize on his art endeavor. Perhaps keeping 99 percent of the proceeds can be re-invested, with plans to expand and eventually......hire! :O

      March 13, 2012 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
  7. chris

    The Occupy Movement lacks a single professional marketing professional. That one will not join you illustrates your weakness in presentation and communication in almost every event you hold.

    March 12, 2012 at 11:38 pm | Report abuse |
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