Christopher Williams Smashes Ads into Art

THE DAILY PIC: The American photographer uses advertising as his art supply.



The thing I love about the photos of Christopher Williams, like those now on view at David Zwirner’s gallery in New York, is that they never completely make sense. Today’s Daily Pic has the high polish of an ad for a luxury product–in this case a Citroen DS car, which I consider one of the greatest of human creations–while also revealing that the photographed “product” had been half destroyed before it was shot. Then things get even stranger when you realize that Williams is showing three versions of this single photo, including the one seen below. They are indistinguishable except for the fact that the same smashed car (the title gives its serial number) has been immaculately repainted for each photo in a different shade of gray (the title also lists the paint’s name). Williams takes the devices of consumer culture and forces them out of their normal rut. The complex machinery of advertising almost becomes a raw art supply, twisted in whatever directions Williams chooses. It’s as though he were Rodin manhandling clay, or Pollock torturing paint. And despite his reputation as a fiercely brainy conceptualist, I have a feeling that, bottom line, Williams has no more certain idea of what he’s up to than they did. When he makes his images I bet he’s in the same boat as I am, looking at them.  (Images courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London and Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne)


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