Photo
Artist Amir Esfahani (left) with Chumlee (right) on the set of the hit reality show Pawnstars. Credit Justin Smith/The New York Times

Bay Area artist and art professor Amir Esfahani, 35, recently went on Pawn Stars with a hidden agenda, to showcase his art on national television using his vintage Led Zepplin, Starship One matchboxes as leverage to get on the show.

Artist Amir Esfahani presenting a Persian box from Esfahan, Iran, a direct reference to his last name. Opening the box he revealed the matchboxes which contained a hidden collage. Credit Justin Smith/The New York Times

Esfahani designed several miniature art pieces with urinals on them, accompanied with his trademark style and inserted them inside his collection of vintage matchboxes. His other agenda was to get everyone on Pawn Stars to say urinal as many times as possible.

Survival: Removing something from eye, Oil on Prepared Paper, Amir Esfahani
Artist Amir Esfahani creates modular boxes containing a variety of subject matter from internet memes, to World War I army manuals. Credit Satellite Gallery, Seoul, Korea

The performance alluded to Marcel Duchamp's famous art piece “Fountain” (1917), which was a urinal tipped on its side. The effects of Duchamp's urinal submission blurred the lines of art and forced the art world to ask itself, what is art.

Fountain, Marcel Duchamp
Amir Esfahani references the artwork of Marcel Duchamp's seminal work (right) in his collage piece (left), which was hidden in one of the matchboxes he sold on the HISTORY CHANNEL. Credit Photo Courtesy of The Satellite Gallery, Seoul, Korea

Esfahani's intention was to get the audience to ask itself, what is art, his reply was simply, “It's art if you say it's art”.

Artist Amir Esfahani appearing on Pawn Stars on the HISTORY CHANNEL. Credit

The performance wasn't limited to just the inserts and getting everyone to say urinal, when the time came to broker a deal Esfahani asked for an antique snow shovel in exchange for the vintage matchboxes. Chum li's response, “That's the weirdest thing I've ever heard.”

The corner of Artist Amir Esfahani's hidden collage work being shown on a detailed shot of the HISTORY CHANNEL's hit show Pawn Stars. Credit

The snow shovel request was another reference to Duchamp's Readymade, “Prelude to a Broken Arm” (1915). Duchamp's Readymade sculptures took everyday objects, like snow shovels and urinals, and turned them into art.

The performance on Pawn Stars also demonstrated the extent and cunning artists employ in order to get their art into the hands of the public by circumventing traditional roles for advertisement. To get the word out about his performance on Pawn Stars, Esfahani created a fake New York Times web page, registered a fake url, and posted an earlier version of this article to the San Francisco Art Quarterly (SFAQ) Facebook page.

At one point during the recording on Pawn Stars, Esfahani pulls out a note, he created, from a matchbox with a urinal drawn on it that said, “Thanks for Everything”.

When asked if the note was a reference to “To Wong Foo Thanks For Everything” Esfahani said, “We were trying to think of something Duchamp would have signed to Led Zepplin.”


You can see more of Amir Esfahani's work on the web at www.amiresfahani.com or at his facebook page www.facebook.com/amiznu.