“Take me (I’m yours). And what if it were art? If it were art itself asking us: Take me, saying to us: (I’m yours)? Would we believe it were really art saying and asking it? That it is indeed art that is talking? Can art talk? We know it speaks, but does it really talk? Is it the same exercise we perform, the same freedom we practice, the same abuse we commit, when we put phrases into the mouth of art and into the mouths of puppies and clothes gathering dust, of domestic appliances that will no longer be of any use?”—Alan Pauls
First presented in 1995 at the Serpentine Gallery in London—and in varying iterations in Paris, Copenhagen, New York, and Buenos Aires from 2015 on—the exhibition Take Me (I’m Yours) grew out of a series of conversations between curator Hans Ulrich Obrist and artist Christian Boltanski about the need to rethink how artworks are shown. Visitors to the show are invited to flout convention and do all the things they aren’t normally allowed to do in a museum: the works can be touched, used, or changed; they can be consumed or worn, purchased or taken free of charge, or exchanged for some personal item.
This book is not only a visual and written archive of the exhibition as presented at Pirelli HangarBicocca from November 1, 2017, through January 14, 2018, but also a testimony of the development of ideas around receiving and donating in art, and putting the public at the center of the exhibition process. The account is brought to vibrant light via heterogeneous points of view: art critic and curator Lea Vergine; poet, essayist, translator, and cultural critic Lewis Hyde; sociologist and researcher Arnaud Esquerre; philosopher Patrice Maniglier; writer, literary critic, and screenwriter Alan Pauls; curator Hans Ulrich Obrist; artist Christian Boltanski; and curators Chiara Parisi and Roberta Tenconi. The rich series of images documenting the works in the Milan exhibition is accompanied by previously unpublished historical photographs by Armin Linke of the 1995 show at London’s Serpentine Gallery.
The book is accompanied by a limited-edition box, which further plays on the idea of the gift by inviting the purchaser to take the exhibition home. Born from an idea by Christian Boltanski, whose handwriting is readable on the lid, the elegant box seems irreverently (nearly) empty: each edition contains a sheet signed by one of the participating artists, where readers will also find a link to download archival documents, texts, and interviews that originally constituted the virtual gallery created on the occasion of the first London edition of Take Me (I’m Yours), at that time available on the Serpentine Gallery website. The selection of the artist is randomly assigned to each box, and is thus a surprise once opened.