Phat Free

Phat Free
signed and numbered '13/25 David Hammons' (on the certificate of authenticity)
color video, sound, transferred to digital video (projection, surround sound); 5:20 min. loop
dimensions variable
Filmed in 1995 and transferred to DVD in 1999. This work is number thirteen from an edition of twenty-five plus three artist's proofs and is accompanied by the original presentation case and a certificate of authenticity.
Greenberg Van Doren Gallery, New York
Private collection, New York
David Zwirner, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner
M. Hollein, Modern and Contemporary Art in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2019, pp. 154-155.
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, 1997 Whitney Biennial, March-June 1997.
Cambridge, Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University Art Museums, Extreme Connoisseurship, December 2001-April 2002.
Venice, ITA, 50. Biennale di Venezia: Ritardi e Rivoluzione, June-November 2003.
Long Island City, MoMA P.S.1 and London, Institute of Contemporary Arts, Video Acts: Single Channel Works from the Collections of Pamela and Richard Kramlich and New Art Trust, July-November 2003.
Philadelphia, The Fabric Workshop and Museum, David Hammons: Phat Free, June-August 2004.
San Francisco, CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts and Bronx Museum of the Arts, Irreducible: Short Form Videos, January-March 2005.
St. Louis Art Museum, Media Series: David Hammons: Phat Free, February-May 2006.
New York, Zwirner & Wirth, David Hammons: Selected Works, February-April 2006.
Cambridge, Harvard University Art Museums, Nominally Figured: Recent Acquisitions in Contemporary Art, June 2006-February 2007 (another example exhibited).
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Closed Curcuit: Video and New Media at the Metropolitan, February-April 2007 (another example exhibited).
New York, Marian Goodman Gallery, Equal, that is, to the Real Itself, June 2007-July 2007 (another example exhibited).
Bronx Museum of the Arts, Street Art Street Life: From the 1950s to now, September 2008-January 2009, pp. 66-67 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Venice, Palazzo Grassi, Punta della Dogana, Prima Materia, May 2013-December 2014 (another example exhibited).
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Met Breur, The Body Politic: Video from the Met Collection, June-September 2017 (another example exhibited).
Venice, Palazzo Grassi, Punta della Dogana, Dancing with Myself, August-December 2018 (another example exhibited).
Further details
Other works from this edition are in renowned international institutions, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Musem of American Art, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Tate. For a more complete list, please refer to the lot essay below.

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Lot Essay

The art audience is the worst audience in the world. It’s overly educated, it’s conservative, it’s out to criticize, not to understand, and it never has any fun. Why should I spend my time playing to that audience? The street audience is much more human, and their opinion is from the heart. They don’t have any reason to play games; there’s nothing gained or lost.
– David Hammons

Originally shot in 1995 to memorialize David Hammons’ late-night street performance and produced four years later as part of an independent video work, Phat Free opens with several minutes of arresting and foreboding darkness overlaid with a mystifying, metallic sound. A tall man cloaked in an overcoat, felt hat and sneakers emerges, kicking a metal bucket down a forsaken nocturnal city street. At first seemingly aggressive, the cacophony of the bucket transforms into a rhythmic beat syncopated with the protagonist’s purposeful footsteps. Over the course of a five-minute loop, Phat Free invokes at once the extemporized tempo of jazz and the sharp lyricism of rap and hip-hop.

World-renowned for this installations, paintings and drawings that unswervingly investigate the oppositional forces between black cultural identity and past heritage, David Hammons works across multi-disciplines in Phat Free, the one and only example in the medium of performance and video. Harnessing the detritus of African American life, he confronts black history, African culture, racism and poverty with beauty, grace and complexity that sets him apart from his contemporaries. Frequently sourcing his materials from scraps found on the streets of New York City, such as basketball hoops, dreadlock clippings and discarded restaurant leftovers, or using his own body in the execution of his critical series of Body Prints that he began in the 1970s, Hammons upends traditional modes of production to create vividly symbolic work that confronts critical issues of race and poverty. In a de facto manifesto, the artist has stated, “I think I spend 85 percent of my time on the streets as opposed to in the studio. So when I go to the studio, I expect to regurgitate these experiences of the street. All of the things that I see socially—the social conditions of racism—come out like a sweat” (D. Hammons quoted in the Art Institute of Chicago’s https://www.artic.edu/artworks/185068/phat-free).

Filmed in a candid and rough style, perhaps conjuring memories from the obscured footage of the Rodney King trial only a few years prior, while performed with the organic autonomy of a reality tv show, Phat Free bridges visual opacity with poignant audio effects. The grainy texture of the video represents the harsh reality on the streets, while placing the artist in a lineage of early video performance art among other 1990s artists including Bruce Nauman and Vito Acconci. Through the poetic and metaphorical action of “kicking the bucket”, Hammons quite hauntingly evokes the impermanence of life while instigating the existential search for meaning within the contemporary black urban experience. Other examples from the edition reside in major private and public institutions worldwide, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Tate, London, the Harvard Art Museum, the Walker Art Center, the Museum of Contemporary Art (S.M.A.K.), Ghent, and the François Pinault Collection at the Palazzo Grassi in Venice.

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