The exhibition, auction, and public destruction of artist-made piñatas

Show runs August 26th – September 11th, 2009

Pinata smashing spectacle & reception: Friday, September 11th, 6-10pm

Pinatas by:

Abby Christensen
Ben Fain
Jose Lerma & Cristina Tufino
Michael Jones McKean
Tomas Moreno
Harriet Salmon
Astri Swendsrud
Emily Vanhoff

Curated by Dayton Castleman and Matthew Dupont

Objet Petit A is an exhibition and auction of artist-created piñatas at Spoke, an artist-run space located in the West Loop gallery district of Chicago, Illinois. Auction winners will be invited to destroy their piñata at a public performance spectacle on the evening of September 11, 2009. The auction will benefit both Spoke, and Chicago Rarities Orchard Project, an organization founded to establish community rare-fruit orchards in Chicago, and preserve open space.

The expression “Objet Petite A” is a term coined by French philosopher Jacques Lacan referring to the idea of an “unattainable object of desire.” Meaning literally “object little-A” the label is summed up in Lacan’s statement: "I love you, but, inexplicably, I love something in you more than yourself, and, therefore, I destroy you." The piñata-smashing spectacle is intended to exaggerate the tension between the art object as a value-invested commodity, and the art object as a mediator of meaningful public discourse. Art can be both, of course, but by leveraging the piñata as a form intended to be engaged in a particularly violent manner, the show forces the question: Will the owner choose to preserve their object, or—whether out of personal curiosity or public pressure—will they destroy it?

The obvious risk is that the “deeper meaning,” revealed in this case by the piñata’s contents, may not be satisfying to the object’s owner or to the waiting public. The piñata’s teleological climax may very well be phenomenologically anti-climatic. The piñata may just as easily contain horse manure, nothing at all, or a golden baby. The winner of the piñata must gamble on whether to preserve the object at hand, or to destroy it in the hope of attaining something of greater cultural, conceptual, or monetary value.

An historical fascination with this dynamic is evident in a wide array of cultural myths and events spanning from antiquity to the present day. From the fabled destruction of the goose that laid the golden egg, Pandora’s Box, or the Trojan Horse, to contemporary examples such as White Elephant gift exchanges and Geraldo Rivera’s legendary 1986 television special “The Mystery of Al Capone’s Vault,” the tension between the value of present realities and a thirst for the unknown emerges as a universal human theme. Focusing on personal greed, the commodification of art objects, and the problematics of interpretation, Objet Petit A seeks to support a public good while creating a communal occasion to explore these cultural phenomena.


Chicago Rarities Orchard Project is an organization founded to establish community rare-fruit orchards in Chicago. These orchards, designed for reclaimed spaces, are dedicated to preserving a few of the thousands of varieties of tree fruit that aren't commonly commercially grown, while providing open space and educational opportunities to Chicagoans. http://www.chicagorarities.org/