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. Marc L from NY

    So, I guess this guy considers someone making $300K a year poor?

    March 9, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • JC

      Not poor... but definitely not in the 1%. $300k/year, while a lot of money, is still part of the 99%. The 1% make that much every month...

      March 9, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • JC

      ... some every few weeks.

      March 9, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • J

      Not so much, the top 1% made $343,927 in 2009.

      March 9, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Todd in DC

      1% = about $325,000 per year.

      March 9, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
  2. ChcgoRealst

    Not a 1%'r by any stretch, but man am I tired of hearing about it. Then add the fact union guys have time to laugh, take pictures, and call friends? Wow, I barely have time to read and comment on this post. Must be nice.

    March 9, 2012 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anvil of Reality

      Maybe you should join a union...

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

      Yeah cuz this guy didn't take time out of his busy busy work day to read and comment on a article...

      March 9, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
  3. The 1%

    Why would I pay $2,500 for a sign that I could make for less than $2.50? There's a reason why the 99% are poor; trying to sell crap at a 1,000-times mark-up is one reason.

    March 9, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • JC

      Not sure I follow. If the 99% were selling items for 1000x their cost, over some time they'd find themselves in (or at least closer to) the 1%... not poor. This guy made $30k in one day already...

      March 9, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
  4. c

    I wonder how many of the 99% er occupiers were not paying taxes at all. I am not rich, not even close, but, I really dont care how much money you have. There is greed everywhere, I dont see occupiers in front of movie theaters or stadiums. Hypocrits make me sick

    March 9, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Anderson Cooper

    Art has always reflected the times, regardless of how naive the audience is.

    March 9, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  6. CRob

    We are all basically part of the 1%. If you live in the US and make pretty much any annual salary you are better off than 99% of all people in the world.

    March 9, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alex

      That, my friend, is a very good point

      March 9, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
  7. The Bob

    If I was part of the 1% I would buy these chairs. The symbolism of sitting on the complaints of OWS is priceless.

    March 9, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • SP00N MAN

      I might buy one, if it was in the shape of a toilet.

      March 9, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
  8. AmericanMan77

    I may buy one. Just to remind me about how funny it was to see wannabe hippies rallying for no reason. My best memory was squirting those dorks with 1% milk. good times. good luck poor people ahahhaah

    March 9, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Black Jimmy Carter SUCKS

    forbes list like over a hundred and twenty billionaires, 2/3 are self made, wouldnt want people taking my hard earned money ... just saying, but since libs are more of the Godless party if you will, then maybe they should have the atheists helping atheists charities because i know that christians that everyone loves to bash and hate give more of what they dont have to those less fortunate, JUST SAYING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 9, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Do you feel better now?
      Just saying!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      March 9, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alex Blanco

      "Hard Earned" – such a silly mantra to keep repeating.

      People pulling down 300k a week aren't getting 'hard earned' money – they're reaping the benefits of simply having a lot of money; its hardly earned, and definitely not 'hard'

      Self made doesnt exlude 'tyranny'; Most dictators are 'self made' – such pinnacles of achievement to model our lives on.

      Snap into reality people.

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

      I have no idea what you just said. I'm going out on a limb here and saying that, given your literacy level, you're getting paid to much if you're receiving any salary whatsoever.

      March 9, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jordan


      All directed at "Black Jimmy Carter SUCKS." Quite the handle there. I wish I could see you when President Obama is reelected against Governor "I Don't Care About the Very Poor."

      March 9, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jacob Cremer

    I think this draws attention to the fact that being in the top 1% of earners doesn't mean that you don't see the unfairness in economic inequality. There are wealthy individuals who agree with the movement. We're aware of Warren Buffet, as well as liberal celebrities, liberal wealthy politicians, and the alleged "liberal media." Liberal concepts aren't completely absent from the 1%. There are also wealthy individuals who love art and appreciate the irony even if it goes against their own views. One could say, "Look, I bought your overpriced spray painted chair. Are you happy now?" And, of course, the irony of that statement is not lost on them. They are aware of how the Occupy protesters feel. But selling the art represents the same kind of entrepreneurial innovation that some 1% individuals argue the 99% needs to engage in. This is the 99% engaging in the free market, demanding $2500, which is an arbitrary price for "artistic brilliance."

    March 9, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
  11. NorCalMojo

    The art world's a joke. What a racket. If he can convince rick fools to buy them, more power to him.

    The odds of them being worth anything in 100 years is pretty slim.

    March 9, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      If it's handmade and you have a photograph of it (particularly in a publication) being used in an actual protest then in 100 years it might very well be something you'd like to have.

      March 9, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
  12. SP00N MAN

    You must really love hamsta, to be giving him this much attention. But he seems to be ignoring you. Maybe you should just move on. There are plenty of bars in San Francisco where you might find someone who will pay attention to you.

    March 9, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Dean

    I am a member of golf’s lower 99%. I am an indifferent golfer, and there’s no way I could ever make it to the professional level. I will never put in the practice time to be the best. I will never have the shots, skills, or mental toughness to “make it” in the sport. I just never felt like working all that hard at it.

    However, I am a part of the golfing community and, as such, feel I should be paid by the top 1% of golfers for what I do. It isn't fair that those players who have worked harder, have studied the game, have better equipment and are more skilled and dedicated should make all that BIG money. Where's my share? I’m a Victim!

    I think the top 1% should pay for my club memberships and green fees and lessons, buy me new clubs, balls, clothes and shoes, and pay me some of their winnings. They can afford it. They are “The Rich.” The whole system should be changed to accommodate people like me. I think we should get together and occupy a golf course and demand that those who are better at what they do, pay for us who generally suck. Whining should get us something – maybe we'll make the cover of Time Magazine, garnish some public sympathy. Heck, during this election year we may even get a law or two passed by legislators who want our votes

    March 9, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Irony

      Want some cheese with that whine? A appetizer, perhaps?

      March 9, 2012 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sarcasm

      Hello Irony, I do believe I belong here.

      March 9, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Duane St.Pete FL

    wow....look what you liberals have done to this guy.....he is smart enough to create something that a lot of people want and are willing to pay for and he almost (or does) feel guilty for making some good money at libs set him straight and tell him to stop making 30k A DAY and get a government job......yeah....we need more of those.

    March 9, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Irony Tampa FL

      Wow, how many times are you going to toss that 'L' word around? As many times as I can say conservatard?

      March 9, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
  15. derpdaderp

    This isnt art. Its more of a disgrace.

    March 9, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • KKDenver

      It's over your head

      March 9, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • There are no artists only talented liars

      @KKdenver, Your wit and understanding of art is simply amazing! Us peons could never hope to reach the same plateau of artsiness as yourself. We are humbled in your presence.

      March 9, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • me

      I really like "I'm so angry, I made a sign".

      March 9, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
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