A festive reprise of Rob Pruitt’s Christmas and Kwanzaa (an African-American festival) version of the ‘Flea Market’event, programmed to coincide with the exhibition Pop Life: Art in a Material World, in which Pruitt also appears. Originally held at Gavin Brown’s Passerby gallery in New York in the late 1990s, then featuring artist peers including Elizabeth Peyton, Piotr Uklanski and Rikrit Tiravanija, Pruitt’s Flea Market is a playful take on a curated group exhibition cum entrepreneurial initiative. For Tate Modern, Pruitt has worked with a new selection of London-based artists, plus some of the original participants, to set up market stalls with everything from artists editions to old 12”s, in a seasonal flavour.’
Flea Market was originally shown at the art gallery Gavin Brown’s Enterprise in New York in 1999, for which Pruitt brought together a selection of artists based in the city to show and sell items. Speaking about this early iteration of the project Pruitt explained, ‘people could treat it just simply as a flea market, or they could sell their real artwork, or they could sell multiples of their artwork, and it was just so much fun for everyone.’ Flea Market has since been presented numerous times, including at Frieze Art Fair in 2007, Musée de la Monnaie Paris in 2012, A Plus A Gallery Venice in 2015 and The Brant Foundation USA in 2015.
Continuing the project’s open and lighthearted approach, Flea Market at Tate Modern had a festive makeover, with red and white striped stalls and fake snow dispersed through the space. Both established artists and members of the public were invited to come and sell goods, having either been approached by Pruitt himself or having applied directly to Tate in response to an open call. Items on sale ranged from handmade Christmas crackers and cards, to artist prints and editions, to clothing, jewellery, ornaments, garlands, photographs, vinyl records and more. Each of the stalls was dressed and decorated by the stall-holders themselves, some of the more well-known of whom included the artists Tracey Emin, who was selling limited edition prints, signed cards, T-shirts and raffle tickets, and Gavin Turk, who had a selection of his pencil drawings of fleas for sale. During the two day event visitors to Tate Modern were invited to wander through the seasonal bazaar, where they could shop or have their photo taken in front of a snowy backdrop, dress up, design and paint their own Christmas cards and talk to the stall holders about their work or goods for sale, most of which ranged from £1 to £100 in price.