Being original is almost impossible.
Born in Leicester in 1969, Jonathan Monk lives and works in Berlin.
His work has appeared in numerous solo and group exhibitions. Solo exhibitions include the Kunsthaus Baseland (Basel, 2016), the Irish Museum of Modern Art (Dublin, 2014), the Centro De Arte Contemporáneo (Málaga, 2013), Kunstraum Dornbirn (Dornbirn, 2013), Palais de Tokyo and Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris (Paris, 2008), the Kunstverein Hannover (Hannover, 2006), the Institute of Contemporary Art of London (London, 2005) and the Museum Kunstpalast (Dusseldorf, 2003). Group exhibitions include Manifesta 11 (Zürich, 2016), the Whitney Biennial (New York, 2006), the 50th and 53rd Venice Biennales (Venice, 2003 and 2009), the Berlin Biennale (Berlin, 2001) and the Taipei Biennial (Taipei, 2000).
Jonathan Monk is represented by the following art galleries: Untilthen (Saint-Ouen), Lisson (London), Nicolai Wallner (Copenhaguen), MeyerRiegger (Karlsruhe), Casey Kaplan (New York) and Dvir Gallery (Brussels and Tel Aviv).
The Collector’s Edition Box by Jonathan Monk for Lab’Bel by Michael Staab, associate curator.
In his work, British artist Jonathan Monk often uses works and design concepts by other well-known artists. While still a student at the Glasgow School of Art, he recognized that appropriation was a possible approach to his own pictorial composition. In the great canon of modern and contemporary art, it seemed to him that to develop even more originality was well-nigh impossible; so, he continues to draw on already available artistic source material, using it as a basis for his own work.
He stays close to the original artwork, while availing himself freely of its forms, materials, and design concept. Thus, he manages to demystify our internalized notions of originality, uniqueness, creative art and its significance, making room for new perspectives and associations from familiar contexts.
With Collector’s Edition Box #3, Jonathan Monk has appropriated a different kind of “original”: the famous French brand The Laughing Cow®. By the addition of a stunningly simple technical alteration, he succeeds in presenting a different perspective on this familiar image with no intervention by pencil or paintbrush, or alteration of the original form or message.
At the request of the artist, the label on one batch of the cheese-boxes manufactured in autumn 2016 will be inverted, during the industrial production process. The cow is now looking in the other direction, and all the other product information is back to front. Through his direct intervention in a strictly controlled production process, Monk has transformed a mass-produced article – always identical and manufactured to the highest industrial standard – into a distinctive collector’s piece. The industrial production hall replaces the artist’s studio as a mystic place. The graphics department, the machine park and the factory workers carry out the craftwork.
The work comes alive, not through being unique, but through appearing different within a mass of original references. The original is so familiar that we no longer look at it properly. One result of Monk’s intervention is that we look again, more closely, and both product and art form become visible.
We all have a weakness for the exceptional, so we like to collect it when we come across it – whether it is a four-leafed clover, an unusual stone or a postage stamp error. So, this box with the inverted label will be appreciated and preserved as something special because of its distinctiveness, even if the artistic background is not known.