Art/Design, News & Events

‘Stealable Art Exhibition’ — a commentary on consumerist behavior

On show at Same Gallery in Tokyo.

words by: Sahar Khraibani
Jul 19, 2020

Most gallery and museum goers are used to reading signs that forbid them from touching the art, or even going near it. But this unconventional show at Same Gallery in Tokyo took a radically different approach. It encouraged visitors to not only touch the art, but run off with it. So are you surprised when you hear that the gallery was emptied in a matter of minutes?


All the works included in the Stealable Art Exhibition, which opened on July 10 at Same Gallery in Tokyo, were up for grabs starting at midnight. The museum designated “stealing hours” following the night of the opening reception. “When a work is displayed as something that can be stolen, what kind of work will the artist exhibit?” asks the gallery’s press release.


The exhibition was designed around the concept of ownership, as well as value in the art world. At a time where everyone is prompted to rethink their consumeristic habits, as well as their complacency in a capitalistic system, Stealable Art Exhibition decided to put these questions to the test and investigate the relationship between artist and viewer.


Held as a group show, it showcased works by Japanese artists such as Joji Nakamura, and was meant to be up for 10 days. The gallery space was intended to be open for 24 hours a day, security-free, encouraging art burglary. But, the joy of art thievery may have been underestimated, because approximately 200 people visited the show on the first night to get their share of free art. From footage uploaded on Instagram, the eager and masked visitors waited outside the space. The venue was totally sacked in a matter of minutes. 


In terms of the gallery’s mission, it seems that they have achieved the goal of their exhibition. We can only speculate what their response will be, but it surely intensifies the ideas of ownership of works of art at a time like this.


Photo via Behrouz Mehri/AFP via Getty Images