Smoking is verboten inside Art Basel, but a work by David Hammons at Salon 94 (J9) offers another kind of nicotine fix. The gallery is showing Untitled (cigarette chandelier) (1994-95), a hanging sculpture previously owned by the New York-based patron Agnes Gund as part of a solo presentation of work by the elusive artist.
The work, priced between $1m and $1.5m, features half-smoked Lucky Strike cigarettes affixed to a 17th-century Buddhist monk’s robe. The sculpture has been in Gund’s collection since it was first shown in Hammons’s exhibition at the East Village ethnographic shop Knobkerry in 1994. Major sculptures by Hammons rarely come up for sale and he does not have formal gallery representation.
The installation of the work posed a dilemma for Gund, the president emerita of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. “According to the artist, one should light the cigarettes and let the ash fall on the floor, where it would remain,” she wrote in the 1999 book, Mortality Immortality? The Legacy of 20th-Century Art. “When we hung the piece in our bedroom, this step was omitted, since displaying the ash would have been uncomfortable for us.”
Salon 94 has faithfully lit the cigarettes and allowed the ash to collect on the floor of its stand—at least for now. “We’ll see if a maid cleans it up or not after hours,” says the gallery’s founder Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn.