One Artist’s Trash Is Another Artist’s Art

June 5, 2015 | Liam Mathews

An artist who goes by the nom de guerre Mercury has pushed the concept of appropriation to its limit by finishing three discarded Peter Halley canvasses. The painstaking works are somewhere between reproduction, satire, collaboration, and theft. They can be seen for the first time at Mercury’s show “In Appropriate,” which opens tomorrow at a Greenpoint location to be announced via social media. UPDATE: The exhibit is at 17 Frost Street from 6-9PM.

“They were started by him, but I finished them,” Mercury told ANIMAL.


Mercury obtained the canvasses from a former assistant of Halley’s. They were in various stages of production, from model to near-completion, but were damaged, and therefore slated to be trashed. Mercury then spent a year carefully researching how Halley’s method’s in order to make his versions exactly as Halley would. He read whatever he could find, talked to assistants and art handlers, and even went to Halley’s art supply store to find out what paints he uses. He had a woodworker recreate the wood structures on which Halley mounts his canvasses.

“I’ll most likely see legal action,” Mercury said.

Peter Halley is considered a blue chip artist. He’s represented by powerful gallerist Mary Boone and is the former director of graduate painting and printmaking at the Yale School of Art. But Halley doesn’t paint himself anymore; like many artists, he has a fleet of assistants execute the work for him. He’s a brand, and Mercury is exploiting that brand recognition for his own benefit and to make a point about branding in the art world.

“Who doesn’t subvert the Mickey Mouse logo?” Mercury mused.

Halley and Boone did not respond to ANIMAL’s request for comment.


Mercury says while he respects Halley’s work as a painter and a thinker, the opportunity to do this arose and he took it. In fact, Halley’s writing on simulacra influenced Mercury to create this work. It’s a representation of a Peter Halley, but it’s also an authentic Peter Halley. Baudrillard would be proud. The piece pictured above is titled “Peter Halley Restored, 2015”

The trio of Halley-Mercury forced collaborations are part of “In Appropriate’s” seven works, which also include a Basquiat recreated from a Google image. Follow Mercury on Twitter to find out where and when the show will happen on June 6.

(Photos: Aymann Ismail/ANIMALNewYork)