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A wooden desk and bench by Lawrence Weiner.


Lawrence Weiner (USA): ‘What Is Set upon Table Sits upon the Table (1989).

Solid oak desk and bench with copper inlaid words on the backboard of the desk, and copper adornments on the base of the bench.                                 


LAWRENCE WEINER, A CENTRAL figure in the formation of 1960’s Conceptual art, is renowned for creating site-specific artwork that encompasses the usage of typographic texts. In this case, a rather normal-looking, Shaker-like desk and bench have been modified with copper-inlaid words and decorations in order to imply a greater sense of gravitas than a desk would normally offer by itself.

One can imagine Barthes, Proust or even Sartre sitting at this cryptic station, struggling to offer up prose worthy of the banality of meaning that this desk intimates. Does a sheet of paper gain significance just by being placed on such a vanguard platform? Does all work created on it’s surface have profundity? Is genius arrived at, just sitting at it, or will words composed on its surface “sit” well with literary cognoscenti? Or can nothing happen here? Either way, Weiner asks, does it matter?

Of course, it could simply be implemented to adorn a “well-intentioned” contemporary bourgeois living space, but then Weiner’s well-cultivated Cheshire cat grin might ultimately be in vain. The ambiguity as to whether this is an artwork or a function-laden conceptual statement might ultimately remain in the eye of the beholder, then.

Manufacturer:  MEMPHIS Milano srl, Milan, Italy

Collection: Collezione META, 1989
Edition: Limited Edition of twenty-five (25) units only
Table:  85.5 x 200 x 63 cm
Bench:  45 x 80 x 40 cm


Keith Rennie Johnson is the President and Director of Urban Architecture, Inc., in Brooklyn, NY. The gallery features important twentieth century visual and avant-garde decorative art and for 20 years has been the leading US dealer for Memphis Milano and Museo Alchimia.

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