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When the IKEA Catalog Becomes a Work of Art

Swedish meatballs not included.

People tend to have a very idiosyncratic relationship to IKEA. For most, it’s the home of chic-adjacent, mass-produced furniture that’s guaranteed to crumble into pieces if you ever try to move with it. For others, IKEA is a retail experience designed to dissolve marriages, or the source of a truly unique poetics (Docksta! Ektorp! Poäng!).

But for the 39 artists participating in “Chambres d’Amis: IKEA,” the megastore is the setting for a very unconventional… art exhibition.

The catalog’s cover, which plants a work by Meg Lipke over the bed. Courtesy: the artist and Broadway, NY. All images copyright Office Baroque.

The project (organized by Antwerp gallery Office Baroque) hacks a late 2021 edition of the IKEA print catalog, utilizing Photoshop savvy to place artworks within the cheery commercial environments.

While it nods back to a 1986 exhibition in Ghent, Belgium — for which international artists installed their work directly in homes around that city — this online-only “show” also has a bit in common with the absurdism of Great Art in Ugly Rooms.

“The idea started during Covid, when there was an exponential rise of online viewing rooms and online art fairs,” explains Office Baroque partner Wim Peeters. “Most of the results were boring and uninspiring.”

A work by Jon Pestoni “hangs” in an IKEA interior. Courtesy David Kordansky Gallery. Photography: Joerg Loshe.

After deciding on a conceptual reboot of the 1986 exhibition in Ghent, IKEA seemed like the right fit. “IKEA’s interiors offered incredible readymades,” Peeters says, “allowing art to be viewed in a context that’s different than what we’re used to.”

The results are surreal and convincing — it’s easy to be fooled into thinking that the project is an official collaboration with IKEA, which it most certainly is not. (Peeters says the brand hasn’t gotten in touch, but he hopes they’d take the homage “as a compliment.”)

“Some artists decided to embrace the fantasy of the room, others focused on the processes that underly large scale enterprises like IKEA,” Peeters says. In some cases, specific artworks are simply dropped into the scene in fairly conventional ways. A Scott Reeder text painting — advertising “new kinds of music” like “crypto folk” and “country trance” — hangs over a rumpled Säbövik bed; a sand-on-board composition by Cynthia Talmadge rests regally over a Nordmela dresser.

Darren Bader’s ‘CS20,’ a readymade incorporating celebrity memorabilia from Janet Jackson and others. Copyright Darren Bader. Courtesy Blum and Poe.

Darren Bader (contemporary art’s most obvious heir to the a-toilet-can-be-art ethos of the readymade) is a stand-out. His sculpture CS20 looks perfectly comfortable in its IKEA scene, since the sculpture itself is mainly just a pile of…stuff. It just so happens that the stuff in question is rare, and loaded with significance — Aretha Franklin’s hat! Janet Jackson’s wakeboard! Slash’s filing cabinet!

Check out some select pages of the faux-IKEA catalog below, and visit the online project’s official home for a deeper dive. Select works pictured in the catalog are indeed for sale, though expect the cheapest to cost quite a bit more than even the fanciest Flanör or Flärke.

Meanwhile, if you’re looking to protect your classic IKEA furnishings and your art (plus a lot more)…we’ve got you covered.

A chandelier-style sculpture by B. Wurtz (composed of 35mm transparencies, plastic, string, and clothespins) enlivens this IKEA scene. Photo courtesy the artist and Office Baroque.
A 2018 work by Patricia Ayres “rests” on the floor of an IKEA bathroom (it’s the black structure, composed of wood, cement, sand, emulsion, plaster, ink, charcoal, and a confessional booth screen). Photo courtesy of the artist.

Find more great art & creativity coverage at FF0083.

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