Tchotchke at the Gund Gallery: Reviews by a Math Major vs. an Art History Minor

Yoko Inoue's Mandala Flea Market Mutants installed at the Krannert Art Museum at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champagne (via

Yoko Inoue’s Mandala Flea Market Mutants installed at the Krannert Art Museum at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champagne (via

As it’s been said, “Art isn’t easy.” But art isn’t the same thing to all people. Here, The Thrill takes a look at art through the eyes of a Math Major versus an Art History minor by giving a brief review of the Gund Gallery’s current show, Tchotchke: Mass-Produced Sentimental Objects in Contemporary Art. Can you guess which review is whose? Let us know what you think in the comments!

Review #1:

Tchotchke: Mass-Produced Sentimental Objects in Contemporary Art is a deconstruction. In the exhibition, the curators hoped to instill the journey behind the impulses to collect in modern American and international life, starting in the home and moving to the creation of the tchotchkes in foreign markets through three spaces. Each space becomes more cluttered as the tchotchkes are shown decreasingly in their gentrified contexts, until they reach Yoko Inoue’s instillation Mandala Flea Market Mutants (2012). Here, smiling Buddhas and misshapen Hello Kittys give the viewer the uncomfortable realization that there are lives behind the goods they thoughtlessly buy. The Buddhas also call to mind the fetishization and appropriation in material culture, wherein religion becomes commerce, and sacredness is forgotten. This comes in stark contrast to the pureness of the first space, where objects are each given individual attention, the element of mass production forgotten to the museum space as they are in the homes of the wealthy. Tchotchke is a feast for the eyes, that explains the racial, gendered, and class implications of collecting mass-produced objects.

Review #2:

Tchotchke: noun- a small object that is decorative rather than strictly functional; a trinket.

You would be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t encountered a tchotchke in their lifetime. They are ubiquitous, churned out in large numbers, ad nauseum. They are of questionable aesthetic, material, and cultural value. In Tchotchke: Mass-Produced Sentimental Objects in Contemporary Art, we see these essentially useless items stripped of their context, and with it, their original shred of relevance. In this sterile repurposing, however, these trinkets find new significance; they become windows into aspects of late capitalism that we would rather not confront. Among the shimmering, adorned porcelain and cracked clay is a shameful air of commodification, trivialization, and exploitation. These items spill from the hands of the proletariat and into the homes of the upper crust, along with aspects of culture that appear ripe and ready for appropriation. The growing entropy of the space is both engaging and disconcerting. For the viewer, the tchotchkes morph from stuffy and mundane household fodder to a barrage of decaying cultural symbols and an inundation of clutter juxtaposed with the aforementioned sterile backdrop. Regardless of personal interpretation or impact, this exhibit is sure to impress, overwhelm, and intrigue.


4 responses

  1. Pingback: 10 o’clock list: Ways to Stay at Kenyon Post-Graduation | The Thrill

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