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. Barry G.

    At one point in Ancient Rome there was one slave for every three freemen. Eventually there were three slaves for every one freeman.

    One of the senators proposed that that they require the slaves to wear distinctive clothing, in order to determine who they were. One of the other senators said that this was a terrible idea, for there was no telling what the slaves would do, if they realized how numerous they were and how few were the rich freemen.

    When the invaders sacked Rome, the slaves joined them, and Rome fell.

    410 CE and 476 CE

    March 9, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • tony

      Nice Comment!

      March 9, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • huh?

      Point?

      March 9, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Are you really trying to draw a moral equivalency between the brutal lives of Roman slaves, and those of the typical American (i.e. the so-called "99%")? We, who are spoiled beyond all historic comparison or belief with material wealth and freedom to move as we please, study and speak as we please, and marry and associate with whom we please?

      March 11, 2012 at 5:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Ellen Thompson

      What a ridiculous post!!

      March 11, 2012 at 10:01 am | Report abuse |
  2. Donna Reed

    Hey! What did I do?
    All kidding aside, I find this hilarious.
    And ironic.
    And still hilarious.
    I don't know why.

    March 9, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
  3. John-117

    I hate cnn. Nothing like spending 15 minutes writing a comment only to have it not get posted.

    March 9, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wha???

      I'm sorry. Did you say something?

      March 9, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • balls

      then please use that 15 minutes to get a job.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • huh?

      Yet, here you are.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • no

      I hate you, John-117.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kristal

      isn't free speech grand

      March 9, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
  4. NOT MY CHAIR

    if i saw a chair like this and some one was trying to sell it to me for $2500 i would laugh in their face. this is not art i can go to A.C. Moore and make one of these for $20. people disgust me on what they are willing to spend money on...

    March 9, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      It's odd how you seem to simultaneously get the point completely but also completely misunderstand it.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Gary in WA

    Let's see. He had an idea, put it to work, and is now making a profit at it. I guess he has now become one of those evil capitalists, and the OWS crowd will soon protest outside his studio. Gotta love it...

    March 9, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lyle from Texas

      True. Of course...he's also using slogans that other people came up with. But it's fine. I'm sure he's giving them adequate compensation for their ideas.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Josh in FL

    This isn't art. It's trash.

    March 9, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
  7. jb

    Obviouslly he is aiming to become part of the "1%". $2500 for graffitti on a chair?

    March 9, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Peikoviany

    Will the censor of this particular board gag on my camel-sized tool? Thank you very much.

    March 9, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
  9. FHBOY

    Haven't you heard, ART is what you can get away with.

    Painted chairs with no original thoughts – I think I found a new web based business, but I'll add Ginsu knives as a bonus!

    What junk – it does not deserve the name "art" – is s merchandising!

    March 9, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Ironic,

    Isnt it?

    March 9, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  11. elenore

    i think it is belittling the people who made the signs,they are not just signs but someones view point.i don't like OWS which was started by a Canadian(go back to your own country) magazine/ University Professor protest however everyone deserves respect.

    March 9, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      OWS is global.
      Embrace the reality.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Daniel

    Love this. Errazuriz is becoming a living part of a larger piece of art that he didn't even realize he was making. He sells these things as art. His customers, ironically amused, buy them as furniture in which their 1%er friends may plop their well-padded backsides and break wind as loudly as they wish upon the complaints of the 99%. In the process, the artist, directing the rage of his underclass brethren, creeps ever closer to riches that most artists never attain. He becomes the very sickness he was trying to cure. The end result of this piece should be an etching on a platinum plate of Errazuriz, Mitt Romney and the Koch brothers sitting in four of those chairs and drinking from crystal goblets filled with the blood of impoverished children.

    March 9, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
  13. CNNuthin

    It still amazes me that so many people do not understand who the 1% and the 99% are and how others think there is a middle ground of hard working people not associated with either side. This article and reading these comments prove that most of you need to stop reading these articles and do some research on the Occupy Movement. CNN is NOT the place to get facts on Occupy.

    March 9, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • The Bob

      So in your 99/1 world someone who makes $70,000/year is in the same exact situation as someone who makes $7.15/hr? Thats a bit delusional.

      March 9, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Eliott C. McLaughlin

      I'd argue, CNNuthin, that we are a great source to get info on the Occupy movement ... or any major issue facing the world. Here is a nice primer: http://on.cnn.com/xFcL0H - and there are many fine stories further explaining the protests. I will add that the above story is not so much about educating anyone on the Occupy movement as it is highlighting a quirky way in which an artist is getting people talking about the issues. Thanks for commenting!

      March 9, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Snoop

      Yeah. A much better place to get "facts" on Occupy is on their websites and on liberal forums. You can get the scoop on the 53% who actually pay taxes ... er.. 99% there.

      March 9, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  14. stujordan

    I'd make a toilet seat out of the signs 🙂

    March 9, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
  15. 4commonsensenow

    The 1% they are targeting would simple steal it, if they wanted it.Its there way.read the signs

    March 9, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marc L from NY

      Do you know how much it takes to be in that 1% group?

      March 9, 2012 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Surfdude99

      Envy is a sin.

      March 9, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • 2cnts

      They should publicize that the 1% consists mainly of minorities, mostly "jewish" minority...

      March 9, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • derpdaderp

      Greed is a sin.

      March 9, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • GetAJob

      Learn how to spell and use grammar. That is step #1 towards bein in the 1%.

      March 9, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
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