An Interface for Extravagary


April 2020 – Present

“Extra vagance! it depends on how you are yarded,” wrote Henry David Thoreau in Walden in 1854: an homage to living, for close to a year and a half, in a pond-adjacent “withdrawing room” cabin to moult the systems that had formed him. There is something of this Thoreauvian extravagary in artist and wordsmith Darren Bader’s online platform, Inventory-19. A kind of digital yard-habitat different to that of gallery acreage, the platform generates a temporary, telephone book-like mooring space for artworks for (30 to 90% discounted) sale from the respective “vaults” of an evolving, select list of artists. Artists whose practices sometimes brush shoulders include Hannah Black, Shana Lutker, and Andrew Norman Wilson, alongside a roster of others. (I-19 does accept applications.)
An exposed wrist with handwriting in black pen reading “[illegible] you drink alone.”
In “Context,” Bader explains that he had, in fact, conceived the platform to coincide with New York auctions last November, when it would have had a “physical ‘showroom’” component. That it launched during the COVID-19 pandemic, however, infuses the model, which interfaces without fuss between artists, artworks, and galleries, with an urgency, uncertainty, and compelling physical lightness — all of a zeitgeist — that it would otherwise not have sustained. Its cabinet has range, too: find, for instance, Dawn Kasper’s A Private Performance For You (2017), before clicking on Davide Balula’s sonic Self Breathing Lungs (12 stripes) (2018), one of several of his automaton works on offer.

A gathering tool for constellating stakeholders, any artwork sold helps nourish a multitiered food chain: 40% of a sale goes to COVID-19 charities (or “needy peers of the artist’s choosing”); 5% to webwork administration (by an “all-too-recently unemployed gallery-worker”); 22% to the artist’s gallery; and 33% to the maker. Part of Bader’s provocation in I-19 is that artists might break with pre-COVID-19 production dynamics that demand they “produce anew […] for the market-driven sake of producing anew.” To artworld extravagance, I-19 invites artists to pause production and instead practice “extra-vagary”: to pressure the materially cumbersome edges of exhibition culture. A baby step toward the imaginary yardage needed for generating novel paradigms of “show and tell” (and sale), out of conditions of impossibility, while we remain percipients from home.