Christopher Howard – The Jean Freeman Gallery Does Not Exist


MIT Press, ISBN-13: 978-0262038461, English, 416 pages, 2018, USA

The concept of ‘fake’ in art has been used as a ‘hallucinatory reality’ well before it was employed as a political weapon online. Conceptual art has been one of the most fertile territories in this respect. This fiercely researched book reconstructs the work of Terry Fugate-Wilcox, a young artist who for seven months, between 1970 and 1971, proclaimed and promoted a fake art gallery at a nonexistent address in New York (26 West 57th St.): the Jean Freeman Gallery. Fugate-Wilcox did so by buying ads on several established magazines for seven shows, and sending press releases to star art critics such as Irving Sandler and Lucy R. Lippard. He then arranged for a few ‘reviews’ of the shows published and even threw a party in his apartment for one of the exhibitions. The book explores Fugate-Wilcox’s artistic trajectory and how different fakes made it perfectly compatible with the rest of the art scene of the time, while a specific chapter is dedicated to art and advertisement. Well ahead of its time, this brilliant work is a powerful metaphor for what we’re facing today, and poses a primary question: how much do we need to know, to trust the existence and operation of an entity that doesn’t necessarily exist?