Here’s how artist Sebastian Errazuriz is selling an empty gallery

The Chilean artist is “stealing” art and placing it on a virtual platform for all to enjoy

There comes a point in any conversation with an artist when it becomes startlingly clear that you’re talking to someone who’s on a different creative plane entirely. In my meeting with Sebastian Errazuriz, it happened when he handed me the penises.

What could be stranger than penis paperweights?

The artist and designer, softly spoken and fresh off a flight from New York, went on to explain that these small stone “paperweights” had been created as a comment on the centuries of statues subjected to dismemberment.

“They’re super fun,” he says. “Most of these statues were built as homages to male prowess, so without the penis, they’re hilarious. Then to recreate them and offer them as mundane paperweights? Even funnier.”

Here’s how artist Sebastian Errazuriz is selling an empty gallery
Just something to help keep your papers in check

Errazuriz, who was born in Chile and studied in New York, has just finished his latest show, Anything You Destroy, We Will Rebuild, at David Gill Gallery in London. The paperweights may seem strange, but Errazuriz’s back catalogue offers similar surprises.

The artist has created everything from experimental furniture and women’s shoes to motorcycles in his pursuit of conversation-starting. Everything is a canvas for the 41-year-old. Everything and, he adds, nothing.

Can you really experience art in virtual reality?

“We’re also starting to develop shows entirely in augmented reality,” he reveals, “where people will just be walking around an empty gallery looking at shows on their phones. It’s fun, no?”

It’s an idea, Errazuriz adds, that was born from the process of creating this show. Based in Brooklyn, he oversaw the creation of this newest collection — modern, everyday riffs on existing classic sculptures — from more than 3,000 miles away. How? By using a virtual-reality headset.

Here’s how artist Sebastian Errazuriz is selling an empty gallery
Not your normal door stop

“We started going through the computer and using a headset so I could see the pieces as if they were there in my studio, walking around and checking them for issues.

“To be able to 3D scan these pieces I had seen every weekend in the National Gallery as a boy and take them home with me and play with them, it’s almost as if I’m stealing.”

“There are issues of ownership,” says the artist, pre-empting my next question. “You’re shining a light on who gets to own these pieces. Did I just steal them? Should there be a copyright around these pieces?” It’s a valid point. If someone scanned Errazuriz’s pieces into a computer to alter and repurpose them, wouldn’t it anger him?

“As long as they added another element, then fine. I think art should function like patents for technology and science,” he says, playing with the paperweight. “As long as you can prove that you’re making an improvement, or adding an element of innovation from the previous work, you should be allowed to grab somebody else’s pieces.”

Here’s how artist Sebastian Errazuriz is selling an empty gallery

Sebastian Errazuriz facts you didn't need to know

  • Born in Chile, 1977
  • Has a Masters in Fine Arts from New York University
  • Went viral with an image showing the number of US soldiers killed in action compared to the number who committed suicide
  • Has given two Tedx talks
  • Has 51.5k followers on Instagram
  • He wears an Audemars Piguet watch

This interview was first featured in our July/August issue as part of The Tastemakers. Get your copy sent straight to your door here…

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