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"Illegitimate Business" Exposes the Underbelly of the Art World

"Illegitimate Business" Exposes the Underbelly of the Art World

basement of Will Brown gallery

What if we told you that works by such famous artists as Sol LeWitt, Bruce Nauman, and Chuck Close were currently on view in the dark basement of a new Mission gallery? You'd consider going to check it out, right? What if we added that the donors of each of the pieces on view obtained these works in somewhat vague and illicit ways? Then you'd probably want to go immediately.

Well, that's exactly what Will Brown gallery is offering up with "Illegitimate Business" at their home in the old Triple Base space on 24th street. The inaugural exhibition—in collaboration with Zachary Royer Scholz and Brion Nuda Rosch—explores the ways in which artwork is acquired outside of auctions and galleries, that is to say without any monetary transaction. Will Brown's site describes the show's mission as such: "'Illegitimate Business' explores the life of an artwork after it leaves the artist’s hands and posits that the value of a work, removed from the market, is perhaps most evident in the narrative of its acquisition.”

Although the lenders remain anonymous, each work is accompanied by a brief explanation from the donor describing the nature of the art's acquisition. Stories range from stealing pieces out of gallery bathrooms to scrounging for proofs and outtakes in artists' garbage cans. Writer and SFMOMA blogger Dodie Bellamy shares the story of a person who was printing in the same lab as Cathie Opie. She says, "Cathie wasn’t satisfied with how her now-iconic life-size photo of Justin Bond was turning out, so she told the anonymous owner, 'You keep it.'" With tales like these, this is a show you don't want to miss.

Through Feb. 26; Will Brown gallery, 3041 24th St., wearewillbrown.com