S.M.S., No. 5
Category: Preserve for the Future
Location: Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden Library
S.M.S., No. 5, October 1968
The S.M.S. portfolios were a collaboration between late Surrealist artists William Copley (friends with and gallerist to Dada artists Man Ray, Duchamp, Max Ernst, etc.) and Dmitri Petrov, which they published through their Letter Edged in Black Press. The project involved some of the most important artists of the twentieth century, and exemplified the community ethos of the 1960s. Both the Dada movement, and the Fluxus movement that followed it, did not agree with the authority of museums to determine the value of art, nor did they believe that one must be educated to view and understand a piece of art. S.M.S., or “Shit Must Stop,” bypassed traditional institutions to distribute artists’ work directly to their audience. Six portfolios containing eleven to thirteen objects were produced in editions of 2000. Ironically, today these works are highly valued and prized by museum collections.
Yoko Ono’s Mend Piece for John, sent to John Lennon before he and Ono started their romantic relationship, consists of a clear plastic bag, superglue, a poem, and a note with instructions to, “Take your favorite cup. Break it in many pieces with a hammer. Repair it with this glue and this poem.” It is just one of the delightful artworks in the fifth edition of S.M.S. , which includes works by Diane Wakoski, Robert Rohm, and Bruce Naumen. The Hirshhorn's issue mysteriously includes a shattered tea cup, realizing one-half of Ono's Fluxus action, perhaps by Joseph H. Hirshhorn, himself.
This is a mid 20th century artists' portfolio housed in the original box, as mailed to the subscriber. The portfolio consists of eleven elements created by thirteen different artists. These include a broken piece of pottery with rolled instructions affixed with a rubber band, a sticker, a stapled and damaged piece "3 Money Making Deals," printed stamps, and various other printed pieces. The original mailing box bears a label addressed to Mr. Al Lerner as well as the original metered postage label. Conservators will repair many elements, such as the "3 Money Making Deals" that has a damaged corner. They will then create separate housing for each item. These will include Mylar L-sleeves, acid free enclosures, and a large double-tray box to house all of the elements together.
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