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Danh Vo (b.1975)
Minerva
gold leaf and ink on cardboard
19 ¾ x 53 ¼ in. (50.2 x 135.3 cm.)
Executed in 2014.
Provenance
kurimanzutto, Mexico City
Acquired from the above by the present owner

Brought to you by

Rachael White
Rachael White

Lot Essay

The Vietnamese-born, Danish-raised Danh Võ incorporates questions of cultural identity, migration and colonialism into his wide-ranging body of work. His installations, as provocative and confrontational as they may be, are in reality messages of intimate personal narratives that harp on his family’s migration from Vietnam in 1979 at the age of four and their subsequent assimilation into European culture. Võ reinterprets his own historical juxtaposition as contradictions within his body of work. His gold-leaf works on cardboard, such as Minerva, are at both elegant and unrefined, a dichotomy between the material nature of Western values and the crude condition of a migrating box of beer. On the origin of the concept, Võ says: “I had been in Spain, thinking of beer brands like León, which has the seal of the Spaniards, and Pacifco, which was made because they were trying to seduce people to think it was a quiet ocean to cross … All this information existed within the idea of the beer brands, and it was obvious for me to want to work with them because it was so perverse” (D. Võ, quoted in M. Slenske, ‘Uncovering Danh Võ’s Revelatory Practice,’ Blouin Art Info, 22 September 2014).

The flattened and creased box of beer is elevated to precious artefact by the addition of a high-brow, high-value medium. Thai artisans painstakingly apply the gold-leaf, helping to transform the discarded beer box into an idol, replete with the trappings of religious veneration and material wealth. The encounter of gold and cardboard in Minerva is a semiotic displacement that mimics the fluid geographies and lingering privileges of Western cultural imperialism: an ironically opulent gilding of a relic of mass consumption. As subtle as it is provocative, Minerva is an icon of Võ’s boundary-pushing bricolage, echoing with all the intricacies of living in the world today.

Vo will enjoy his first comprehensive survey in the United States with Danh Vo: Take My Breath Away at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, opening 9 May 2018. His major solo exhibitions include presentations at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid (2015-2016); the Museo Jumex in Mexico City (2014–15); the Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris (2013); and the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2008). He has also participated in numerous international group exhibitions, including the Venice Biennale in 2013.

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