Artist lifts pickle from McDonald’s burger and charges $6,325 for it

Is it art or is it trolling? The answer is up to the viewer in the case of a recently exhibited artwork.

On July 7, Australian artist Matthew Griffin debuted a work titled “Pickle,” a single slice of pickle that he plucked from a McDonald’s cheeseburger and then tossed against the pristine white ceiling of a gallery space. And no, it would never have fallen from that spot until you ask. A whole arm, Picasso.

The work, which was recently shown at Michael Lett, a New Zealand gallery where the former cucumber was featured on the show ‘Hosting Fine Arts, Sydney’. Griffin is an artist known for sparking conversations about the perceived pretentiousness of the art world, using comedy as a starting point to discuss serious issues such as health and dental care for freelance artists in Australia, for example.

According to the gallery, this most recent work was deliberately designed to question what art has value and what doesn’t.

If you were hoping to see the work, or maybe even $10,000 Australian dollars (which equates to about $6,329 US dollars) for the work, unfortunately the show closed on July 30. Still, each buyer of the work will not receive the exact pickle from the exhibit, but will be given “instructions on how to recreate the art in their own space”. No word on whether or not the work sold, but you could probably save a few thousand dollars by going to your local drive-thru and recreating Griffin’s artistic process.

The exhibit is one of four new works by different artists each on display for the first time, including Griffin’s “Pickle,” another artwork consisting of a single houseplant next to a speaker that plays ambient sound over the course of an hour, a third work of a sconce lamp and finally a sketch of a woman eating a banana.

Themes of the exhibition pertaining to the works are transience, distance and time, according to a press release from the gallery. Perhaps it is up to the viewer to decide which artwork fits each theme.

Perhaps the most complex part of the brine-based work to handle for some is the description of the medium of the artwork. While the Louvre label for the “Mona Lisa” says the masterpiece is painted with oil on poplar wood and some of Edgar Degas’s works are simply drawn in dry pastel, “Pickle” contains a lot more than just a pickle:

Regular Bun: Wheat Flour (Enzymes), Water, Sugar, Canola Oil, Wheat Gluten, Glaze, Iodized Salt, Yeast, Improver (Wheat Flour, Malted Wheat Flour, Antioxidant (300), Enzymes (Contain Wheat)), Emulsifiers (472e, 471), Preservative (262). Beef Patty: Beef. Cheese: milk, salt, starter cultures, enzyme (rennet — calves and/or vegetarian), water, milk solids, fat-free milk solids, emulsifiers (331, 332), cheese flavour, salt, acidity regulators (260, 330), emulsifier (322 — soy) , Colors (160a). Ketchup: water, tomato paste, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, distilled vinegar, salt, natural flavor (soybean oil). Pickles: Pickles, Water, Acidity Regulator,(260), Salt, Flavor, Firming Agent (509), Preservative (211). Onion: Water, Dehydrated White Onions. Mustard: water, distilled vinegar, mustard seed, salt, color (100), paprika, natural flavouring. Beef Patty Seasoning: Salt, Pepper and Sunflower Oil.

The Medium Frame for Matthew Griffin’s “Pickle” Artwork

These, of course, are the ingredients of a typical McDonald’s cheeseburger, which surrounded the pickle until its gallery debut. When purchased, the ultimate owner of the piece isn’t given the exact pickle, but instructions to recreate the artwork in its own space, which seems like just two steps, if we’re being honest.

Reaction to the work was decidedly mixed, with some art critics calling it “priceless” and “excellent”, while others roasted the work a bit like the beef patty it was once placed on.

“When I was a teenager I was kicked out of a McDonalds by the police for doing this, now it’s art,” said one Instagram user.

“How do they exhibit this so-called artwork? Did they rip out part of the ceiling?’ asked another commenter on Instagram.

“It’s that banana thing again. How unoriginal,” said a third user, this time on Twitter. (Everyone is a critic.)

Griffin’s most recent perishable artwork comes three years after a similar work by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan. That piece, “Comedian,” is an infamous piece of art that consisted of a single banana taped to a gallery wall with duct tape, and was exhibited at Miami’s Art Basel in 2019. That piece sold for $120,000—more than once, in fact. The artist simply stuck new bananas to the wall after they were bought by at least two French art collectors.

Notoriously, the third edition of Cattelan’s perishable piece was taken off the wall and eaten by another now-Duchamp, New York performance artist David Datuna.

Surprisingly, Datuna was not charged for the stunt — neither by the police nor by Perrotin, the gallery that technically owned the work. As a Perrotin employee told TODAY in 2019, the banana itself does not represent the value of “Comedian” – the value comes from a certificate of authenticity that contains exact instructions for installation and further confirms that it is Cattelan’s work.

Yet one of those other surviving (and probably very, very black) banana-based works was donated and accepted into the collection of the prestigious art institution the Guggenheim in 2020, so like it or not, one day “comedian” might pull the legendary walls alongside works by Van Gogh and Cezanne.

About ‘Pickle’, the gallery owner told The Guardian that they should take the serious-looking intention of the artwork with a grain of salt, as it were.

“A humorous response to work is not invalid,” said Ryan Moore, the director of Fine Arts, Sydney, who represents Griffin. “It’s okay because it’s funny.”

Like other off-the-shelf artists (and yes, there is a category of art that includes “Pickle” and “Comedian” that has been around since 1913), Griffin’s artwork uses humor as a means of questioning “the way value and meaning is generated between people,” Moore said.

Whether or not the resulting fruit flies, molds, or wayward raccoons are saved with works like “Pickle” and “Comedian” as they inevitably rot with time, it’s safe to say that this new wave of perishable art is officially global. gone. Yummy.

Leave a Comment