Rob Pruitt Turns the Brant Foundation Into a Frenzied Flea Market
Guests go crazy for castoffs from Stephanie Seymour and the Brant Brothers.
It was evident upon entering the picturesque grounds of The Brant Foundation in Greenwich, Connecticut, that Rob Pruitt’s solo show and 50th birthday bash was not going to be your average spring opening party (see Rob Pruitt Responds to Our Wacky Word Prompts for His 50th Birthday).
Sure, yesterday’s fête had the requisite star-studded guest list, the massive white tent in the middle of the impossibly lush lawn, and a slightly lurid pig roast. But it was also bursting at the seams with the kind of goofy, irreverent touches for which the social media-savvy artist is known, such as anthropomorphized traffic cones with Muppet-like faces, enormous googly eyes installed atop trees, and smaller saplings adorned with ornaments made of bananas, apples, and oranges (see Will Rob Pruitt Instagram Series Get Gallery Show?).
But the highlight of the event was Pruitt’s flea market, which featured an assortment of items donated by members of the Brant family.
“This notion of [The Brant Foundation] being a family project was important to me,” Pruitt explained during a tour of the exhibition. “I was thinking about Peter’s connoisseurship and his passion for collecting, and then my own passion for junk sales…so I thought what a great way to make a family portrait.”
Pruitt asked each family member to clean out their closets and storage spaces, and the results were mind-boggling: everything from cribs to designer clothes made the cut.
The well-heeled crowd went a little wild at the chance to obtain a gown once owned by supermodel Stephanie Seymour (and if you happened to be a size two with $600 burning a hole in your pocket, you were in luck), and visitors were quick to snap up a metallic gold leather jacket from “dandy teenage boulevardier” Harry Brant’s closet. The line to pay for foraged Brant goods was intimidatingly long all afternoon, and it wasn’t unusual to spot guests toting sacks full of purchases. Pruitt’s dealer, Gavin Brown, walked away with a brown leather suitcase emblazoned with Peter Brant’s initials, while Seymour graciously assisted the eager crowd in rifling through her enviable castoffs. For every $200 spent, a limited-edition Rob Pruitt pillow was added to the haul, and all proceeds went to the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College.
The family-themed flea market was especially fitting, given that the event took place on Mother’s Day. (We noticed several people walk away from the festivities for a brief call to Mom, proving that even the rich and famous cannot escape time-honored obligations.)
Also on view were a number of colorful works with childlike faces scrawled on them that Pruitt is either calling “emoji paintings” or “gradient face paintings.” He was inspired to create them based on a memory of his father, who died of cancer in 2008. “I pretended to like sports for him and he pretended to like art for me,” Pruitt recalled. “I’ve always loved Rothko paintings ever since I was a kid and my dad would take me to the National Gallery… I can remember walking through the gallery and seeing a Rothko, and he’d be like, ‘Ugh, Jesus Christ, wouldn’t it be better if someone just drew a face on it?'”
Pruitt also pokes fun at his own recent collaboration with Barney’s New York and J Brand jeans (see Rob Pruitt’s Gradients Go High Fashion for J Brand Jeans) by stuffing two pairs of the gradated pants with cement and turning them into a makeshift gallery bench.
“There have been eight shows that have come before me,” the artist lamented. “I studied all eight shows and thought that everyone has done such a good job. And what you don’t know is that I have very low self-esteem, and I thought, ‘I’ll never be able to do as good as job as Nate [Lowman] or Julian Schnabel, but I like what I did.”
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