The Whitney Biennial: Art Sucks, Let's Go Shopping

A salute, of sorts

Of the many commemorations for those heady days taking place this month—the French jeweler Dinh Van has even issued a pendant in the shape of a rock ("Un bijou symbole de liberté, né en 68," according to the designer)—my favorite is the small display of reproduction posters in the window of the Paul Smith store on Greene Street in Soho.

Here is the famous image of the raised fist that appears to be emerging from a burning building and has the legend La Lutte Continue; another banner shows a nasty rat and the words Action Civique Vermine Fasciste; still another has a drawing of a comrade being removed on a stretcher with the mordant caption L'ordre Regne.

Unfortunately, the posters are part of a gigantic book that Paul Smith is selling for $2,500, and of which there are only five copies in the U.S. Twenty-five hundred dollars? I asked the guy behind the counter. Is the money for charity or something?

He looks blank. He doesn't think so, but he does tell me that in a moment of perfect symmetry, whoever has issued the book has made exactly 68 copies. (Well, that's $170,000 if they all sell.) I'm about to walk out empty-handed when another clerk directs my attention to a jar on the counter containing $2 buttons with pictures of the posters. I rip the Whitney sticker off my velvet coat and pin on a La Lutte Continue badge. Who says I don't like art?

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