Is this art? McDonald’s cheeseburger pickle flung onto ceiling on sale for NZ$10,000

The work by Matthew Griffin can be found in Auckland, New Zealand

The piece of gherkin, complete with smear of sauce, is dividing people online — but it is not the first conceptual artwork of its kind. Photo: Matthew Griffin / Michael Lett Gallery
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Australian artist Matthew Griffin’s Pickle is a sculpture and installation, of sorts.

Currently on display in a New Zealand art gallery, the piece comprises a slice of pickle taken from a McDonald’s cheeseburger and flung onto the ceiling.

Valued at NZD$10,000 ($6,269), Pickle is part of an exhibition titled Fine Arts, hosted at Michael Lett Gallery in Auckland. The collector or institution purchasing the work won’t actually be acquiring the exact pickle Griffin has used. Instead, they will be given instructions on how to recreate the piece in their own space.

Griffin is known to use humour and a DIY approach to his work, which is best classified as post-internet art. This particular trend acts as a vehicle to criticise contemporary culture as it exists online. It uses ideas and references from the internet while commenting on its effects on culture and aesthetics.

Posting images of his latest piece on Instagram, Griffin includes a complete breakdown of the ingredients in a McDonald’s cheeseburger as part of the description of the work.

Unsurprisingly, Pickle has stirred up many opinions online as to whether this is “real art” or simply a stunt.

There is a history of artists questioning the validity of the work they produce and subtly mocking the art world for the value they place on pieces.

One of the earliest instances of this was Marcel Duchamp’s 1917 Fountain urinal.

A pioneer in blurring the lines between art and everyday objects, Duchamp presented a readymade “sculpture” consisting of a porcelain urinal signed "R Mutt”.

Duchamp changed the discourse on modern art when he argued “an ordinary object could be elevated to the dignity of a work of art by the mere choice of an artist”.

In more recent times, the idea of what an artwork is or can be has been fiercely debated by the public and on social media.

A man poses for a photo next to a banana attached with duct-tape that replaces the artwork 'Comedian' by the artist Maurizio Cattelan, which was eaten by David Datuna, in Miami Beach, Florida, December 7, 2019.  REUTERS/Eva Marie Uzcategui

In 2019, Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan’s artwork Comedian went viral during Art Basel in Miami after he duct taped a ripening banana to the gallery wall. The piece sold for $120,000 and was then eaten by New York performance artist David Datuna.

In 2021, Italian artist Salvatore Garau made international headlines for auctioning off invisible art, or an "immaterial sculpture", for more than $18,000. The buyer of the work, titled I am, which was made of nothing, was given a certificate of authenticity to prove the work was real.

That same year, Copenhagen artist Jens Haaning was the centre of controversy when a Danish museum loaned him 534,000 Danish krone ($84,000) in cash to recreate his old artworks using the banknotes. Instead, Haaning kept the money and delivered blank canvasses with a new title, Take the Money and Run.

What is clear to see is Griffin is making the same point Duchamp made 100 years ago: valuing art can be bit of a pickle.

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Updated: August 01, 2022, 8:14 AM