The other day I sat down with artist Marcus Young in what could have been his living room, if it weren’t for the fact that we were in the gallery space of the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.
The room is furnished with Young’s loveseat and chairs, wall art and floor lamps. And it’s all for sale.
Young is part of a group show at MCAD of McKnight Visual Artist Fellows. While the other artists’ work feature colorful playful sculptures, Young’s display makes you feel like you’re at Pottery Barn or Room and Board.
I’m trying to do the opposite of retail therapy. You can obsess about the beauty of a thing – say, shoes – and often it’s substituting for a lack of human affection. So I thought I could get rid of things that I still really like, in order to make room in my heart and in my house for a new energy, to loosen things up.
Marcus Young’s possessions, on display and for sale at the Minneapolis College of Art Design
Photo: Rik Sferra
Included on the didactic labels is not just information on the furniture, but things you might want to know about Young… if you’re shopping around in that area of your life, too. Young offers discounts on items to buyers who offer to set him up on a date.
For Young, this show is a test of what art can do:
Every time I encounter an opportunity to work in a gallery, I ask myself where I am in my life right now. Because a gallery is normally about things, not life, and I like to bring life into the gallery. Where I am in my life is I’m looking for love, so I wondered was it possible that my art practice could help me find love? And if not, could it at least help me declutter my house?
As an artist Young is known for blurring the boundaries between art and life, whether it’s by imprinting poetry in city sidewalks, taking up residence in a museum, or inviting people to fly wishes on kites.
So why not use art to talk about love?
There’s so much shame and embarrassment around not being in love; we are a very partner-centric culture. We look at single people as unlucky at the very best, and unwanted at the worst. You have to be bold enough to tell the world that you’re looking for somebody, and something may come from throwing that message into a bottle into the ocean.
Young says if he doesn’t try every tactic available for finding love, he’s not being responsible for himself. He’s even gone so far as to add it to meeting agendas.
The McKnight exhibition closes Friday. In the five weeks it’s been up, Young has sold about half of his possessions. But he’s only been on one coffee date. Young says it’s discouraging.
Maybe it’s easier for us to buy and sell than to talk about needing love. Looking for love is so much more noble than buying chotchkies so it should be the inverse.
Young admits that being a gay Chinese American artist means he’s looking for someone who delights in the unconventional. He wonders, maybe Minnesota isn’t the best place for finding Mr. Right?
Maybe people think it’s easier to be accepted if your normal, but at my stage of life I’m ready to not be normal. And there are very few people out there who delight in being different. I don’t want to give up on Minnesota – I’ve been here 25 years, so I believe in Minnesota, but I also believe in love. I hope those two aren’t in competition.
For those people who question Young’s use of a gallery exhibit to find love and sell his furniture, Young says, that’s the whole point.
I’ve provided some very aesthetically pleasing objects, placed and lit well in a gallery space – so isn’t that by definition reaching the minimal definition of what art is? It just so happens that these objects were all in my house. I’ve signed every piece – does that help? You can buy them off the wall. Ultimately I want people to understand that art is a part of life, it involves your spirit, not just an object on the wall.
Young says his show has been an experiment in which he is the guinea pig. But he’s looking at ways of replicating it on a larger scale. Could groups of single people come together to declutter their lives and make room for new love?
Young’s show “I’m looking for love, so let’s fix the system” runs through Friday in MCAD’s main gallery.
If you think you can help Marcus Young find true love, you can contact him at FurnitureandMoreMCAD@gmail.com. If you miss the show, you may spot Young dancing in the Twin Cities as part of his project “Don’t You Feel It Too?”