L’Objet Petit a

31 MAY 2022 - 25 JUNE 2022
Add to wishlist
1. Natacha Merritt

L’Objet Petit a

Signed and dated ‘PARIS, MAY 30TH 2022’
Volkswagen Transporter Shuttle minibus in resin on steel stand 
470 x 180 x 190 cm.
Created in May 2022 
This work is unique and is sold with a certificate from the artist.
The highest bidder is kindly asked to provide L’Objet Petit A to the city of Kyiv to be on display for victory day. 


$250,000 - 500,000

This auction has now ended

L’Objet Petit a (1/1)


L’Objet Petit a, is a resin coated perfectly preserved 1999 VW minivan from Natacha Merritt's Operation PinkBus fleet of rescue vehicles used to evacuate citizens from Ukraine. 

The minivan carries with it the marks of what it takes to save lives: mud from the field's of Donetsk, bullet holes, shattered glass and ‘Fuck Putin’ inscribed in Ukrainian in the dust of the rear window. In capturing these moments in resin, the American artist Natacha Merritt has transformed the minivan into a historical relic and monument to the heroic efforts of all volunteers that have risked their lives in the evacuations. 

The proceeds of the auction will go directly to the sourcing of vehicles, materials, and Ukrainian operational teams. Our Ukrainian partners continue to need vans to transport resources, and funds for the related costs such as gasoline. Operation PinkBus is now hiring Ukrainian drivers (supporting job creation) and providing them with basic first aid training. 

We will be helping the Ukrainians with mobile medical relief efforts and emergency rescues as needed. In recently liberated eastern regions we will convoy large amounts of medical aid and food, and fund transatlantic gathering and delivery of donations of ambulances and meals. Our immediate rebuilding projects range from rebuilding urgently needed school roofs and hospital windows, and small yet critical rural river crossings.

Please note, the highest bidder is kindly asked to provide L’Objet Petit a to the city of Kyiv to be on display for victory day when the invasion of Ukraine has come to an end. 

L’Objet Petit A is Natacha Merritt’s answer to art’s current predicament. It is a first proactive critique of content capitalism, because besides a robust commentary of war content economies, Merritt offers a wake-up call to exploit the system for good.

This sculpture is a product of collaboration across the chasm of the Other. It stands tall for self ownership and control of representation, a true commentary on content capitalism and philanthropy. Natacha Merritt hacked modern social and economic structures to create not just an art piece with deep reverbrance of meaning, but one that extends into the real. As a Ukrainian object, the sculpture, all the proceeds of the auction, every bit of the preserved and capture affect, everything is theirs for immediate needs and for reconstruction and new beginnings.
The awakening of memory that we thought was explicitly written down in our history books has left out much of the struggle that humans have actually experienced. Eradicating censorship and opting for unapologetic honesty, American artist Natacha Merritt has attempted to capture an essence of feelings, situations, and impulses within this historical moment that most of us are finding ourselves watching from afar. With L’Objet Petit a, the artist proposes a video and sculptural installation in reaction to the inexorable flow of incessant chatter on social networks and questions raised about how contemporary society approaches war in 2022.

Photographs and videos taken from Merritt’s journey to aid those in need on the border of Ukraine encircle a van that has been preserved in resin and is perched on a pedestal. The dirt and details of its time as an evacuation vehicle in the first weeks of the invasion of Ukraine are locked in fossilized stillness. Any van that goes into Ukraine as charity is registered as a vehicle that can not come out. In other words, everything that goes in is expected to die there. And yet, this one made it out.

The presence of this vehicle in Paris may leave the viewer in uncertain ethical waters. Should a critically useful machine have been removed from the frontlines of war to be placed on display? The extraction of the object from the surreal theater of an invaded country, returned to us - the privileged - has transformed this donation into an expensive art piece, of which the original donors will see no part of the proceeds. If we keep staring at it because it's a beautifully out-of-place object with a powerful historical role, in that meditation, perhaps we will understand more about the gaze of war; something about the onlookers and the doers, the pity and ineptitude, the consumption of war as content or entertainment. And yet, the object’s journey is what truly gives it value. As the viewer exits this room, they enter a dark screening room with an edited video of the evacuation mission set up by Merritt and her husband, Adnan Selimovic. Across from it is a final room with one last video of a man lighting his belongings on fire playing on a loop.

This unsettling installation began with an operation born from the inner conflict that Selimovic was experiencing. Born in Yugoslavia, he was triggered by the beginning of the Russian invasion in Ukraine which violently unveiled his buried traumas. It was Merritt who reacted on her first impulse: "In the beginning, there is action." In that moment, rather than remaining apathetic, there was the pertinent question of becoming a tactical actor. 

Mobilizing Selimovic's experience as a refugee, academic researcher, and operations advisor steeped in warfare , he set up, ex-nihilo, the "Gorilla Ukrainian Aid" operation with Meritt. Their plan was to buy vans to evacuate those who do not have much and will have nothing soon. This specifically included blocked Ukrainians, orphans, single women, and others who would have no escape from the devastating, threatening wave that is growing. The couple raised close to €300,000 in only a few days. In collaboration with their Ukrainian collaborators the decision was made that the most urgent need was for vans. As their plan began taking shape, the couple quickly realized that time was being measured in days and hours, not in weeks or months. At that moment in February 2022, the Russian army had been amassing dangerously around the most strategic points of Ukraine. 

Merritt left her comfort zone to go to a garage in the rural suburbs of Vilnius. The capital of Lithuania, it is only a three-hour drive from the border of Belarus, a country already sitting as a lonely ally of Russia. As more and more vehicles arrived, feelings of hope that they embodied expanded. Using video as an outgrowth of her camera, Merritt pointed her iPhone at the landscapes she came into contact with on her journey delivering these vans and cash to those who needed it. In this impulse, she placed herself at the antipodes of her work. An artist who had only captured nude subjects under the conditions of consensus and sensuality, with L’Objet Petit a she reverses her credo, photographing what could be seen as the pomp of war and violence without asking for anyone's opinion. 

Cutting herself off from social networks for as long as she can remember, Merritt has avoided getting caught up in the crusher of noisy judgments, where one’s word seemingly becomes fleeting and meaningless. Finding herself instead very close to the frontlines between Poland and Lithuania, Merritt feels a corrosive pleasure being born in her, one that could become malignant if it were to grow. These vans surprisingly became an object of affection, or even sensuality for Merritt, whose previous work has been largely erotic. In it there was a pleasure of humanitarian or humanistic adrenaline; one of saving, rescuing, and finding a meaning to one's life by helping others. The pleasure remains no less human in that it could also lead to an icy slope where the fall is easy and brutal. 

Meanwhile, the vans crystallize the simple idea that some simple actions have made a resonant impact. The vans materialize this support to accomplish the grandiose. The journey of these vans that will be bought back four times more expensive than at acquisition, to inject in the wake of funds that will be used to buy back other vans and to evacuate others who are trapped. Saving lives by creating carriers of horizons to expand and how the desire to form a virtuous circle in a war zone is realized.

At the heart of the exhibition, to the rhythm of an auction that will take place in tandem with the exhibition, are the vehicles that are frozen in time loaded with history become a sculptural installation. They embody the importance of a fundamental idea in wartime: "Simple actions carry immense consequences." The motorized carcass of these vans bear witness to the horizons they have created, like a concrete and palpable stop of time.

About the Artist

Natacha Merritt is an anachronistic product of the major forces that shape America in the postwar era. Not bound to medium, she signals the overdue and always already timely return to meaning, to the real. A totem builder, magic maker, she is the modern embodiment of Zaratustra; her enjoyment of all things erotic always arouses the suspicious gaze of cultural autoimmunity. Artists of her caliber fake hibernation while repressive middle-periods come and go between instances of surprise, relief, opening, even if momentary. They release their creations into the world when the historical moment is felt to be satisfyingly obstetric. Whenever she returns to the art world, she wields her art like the Holy Longinus. At every critical major juncture over the last three decades, Merritt has been present to gift us relics of the future already past, refractions and kaleidoscopic inversions of our paradimal visual self-referentiality. Now is such a moment of her resurfacing. In the wake of a world quarantined, on the foothills of feminine domestication overcome, Merritt springs to the occasion to capture and amoriolize the real once again, because it deserves it.

A radically self-reliant persona, Natacha Merritt has found expression for her artistic instinct in wildly diverse contexts. From the hotel rooms of pre 9/11 New York to residual sites of the 1960’s counterculture in California; from digital photography to performance art and virtual dimensions; from the world of financial symbols in senses of venture capitalism to the unnerving enclosures of femininity and domesticity. Her entire body of work stems from a radical embrace of the human condition, and its erotic bridge to animality and nature. In the beginning, the work was auto-referential; it was introspectively interrogative and hyper-local as a product of adolescent subjectivity. Born in San Francisco, raised between the Bay and Paris, she first came to the scene with her Digital Diaries. A De Beaviour-like scientist of desire, she took  up the erotic, in human bodies, entangled in various productive systems and expressive scripts. Charting the life of human behavior at the intersections of aesthetics, technology, and nature,she consistently discomforts and questions existing means of visual art that ripple between performance and documentary. Intentionally and inadvertently she captures the ephemeral, the deeply familiar with all its alien crevices, situating universal themes of desire, pleasure, and the shapely systems within which they flow.

Her present work embodies a mastery of intentionality cultivated over a lifetime immersed in the deep questions tying aesthetics to humanity. In the early days of the invasion of Ukraine, below the exotic surface of the humanitarian tragedy, Merritt encountered visible sites of human lives spilling over their imposed identity as victims of history. Through an opening of generosity, she would embark on a journey where she had the front-seat view of the chain of humanity that made evacuation and rescue possible. In this context of translocal solidarity, her intention would serve to shape a performative frame around the real, resulting in a new deeply interwoven collection of stills, videos, and a grandiose sculpture, acting as a multinodal, multidimensional prism, collectively shouting and whispering secrets of what makes us alive. At this juncture in late capitalism with simulations and gaslighting run amok, Merritt emerges right in time with a gift of a monolith to ground our transition to the new, the one we need but could not have anticipated.  

Be the first to hear about the latest auctions

Your Basket

There are no items in your basket