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9th Shanghai Biennial highlights Pittsburgh and presents new commission by Jon Rubin
Jon Rubin, The Lovasik Estate Sale, 2012. Courtesy the artist. Photo: Tom Little.

PITTSBURGH, PA.- Organized by independent curator Chelsea Haines and sponsored by The Andy Warhol Museum, the Pittsburgh Pavilion at the 9th Shanghai Biennial is a commission with artist Jon Rubin that explores the life and legacy of one ordinary family in Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania has been selected as one of 30 international cities to inaugurate a large-scale new initiative for introducing global art through the Shanghai Biennial. An adaptation of the Venice Biennial model of national pavilions, the city pavilions project at the Shanghai Biennial will represent art and culture from select cities encompassing a wide spectrum of geographical and cultural diversity.

For the Pittsburgh Pavilion, Jon Rubin purchased the estate of the Lovasik family, an American family of Slovak descent who lived for generations in a house in an old mill town minutes north of Pittsburgh. Built by the family patriarch in 1914 (the same year Andy Warhol’s father moved to Pittsburgh from Slovakia), the home had a ground floor that doubled as the family business, once a grocery store and butcher shop, and an upper level two-bedroom home. The Lovasik family’s objects tell a long domestic story that spans the range of several generations and include furniture, toy train sets, plastic figurines, jewelry, and a dishwasher to more personal artifacts, including photo albums, a marriage certificate, personal files and hundreds of religious books written by a priest in the family.

The Lovasik Estate Sale, an installation taking up the entirety of the Pittsburgh Pavilion, displays all the objects in the Lovasik home as they were found and arranged during the original estate sale. Importantly, the installation will also function as an actual estate sale. Over the course of the exhibition, visitors may purchase objects from the estate and take them home (notably, many of the objects in the estate were originally manufactured in China). The installation will shrink as the exhibition continues, and the final object sale will take place on the last day of the biennial. The proceeds of the sale will go into the production of a subsequent exhibition of a Shanghai estate in Pittsburgh in 2013.

The aim of the pavilion is to display a particular portrait of Pittsburgh—a biography of a family’s entire life—and a way of redistributing their possessions in an area of the world that may seem foreign at first, but universally familiar upon further inspection. In this way the Pittsburgh Pavilion ideally dissolves this space between the familiar and foreign by dispersing the remnants of one Pittsburgh family’s life and local culture into the many lives and cultures of those who visit the exhibition.

On view October 1 – December 31, 2012 in a repurposed building in the Bund, Shanghai’s main shopping district, the exhibition is expected to be visited by hundreds of thousands from China and around the world.

Rubin has created socially engaged art projects internationally and is best known in Pittsburgh for initiating restaurant-cum-performative interfaces The Waffle Shop and Conflict Kitchen. He was the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts Artist of the Year in 2011 and is currently short listed for the International Award for Participatory Art. Haines is an independent curator from Pittsburgh and currently based in New York, where she is a PhD candidate in Art History at The Graduate Center, CUNY.

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