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BY BOB KRASNER | For a little more than a month, artist Rutherford Chang was the proprietor of an “anti-store.”
His project, entitled “We Buy White Albums,” at Soho’s Recess Gallery on Grand St., was the repository for Chang’s collection of copies of The Beatles’ classic “White Album.”
Rather than selling the vintage vinyl, however, the artist’s intention was to create a temporary home for his 650 copies of the groundbreaking album, which famously featured an all-white cover — plus, he wanted to add to his collection.
Each of the 3 million copies of the album’s first pressing were numbered sequentially. So, it made perfect sense to find them arranged by number in the gallery, in bins like one would find in a record store, as well as displayed on the wall.
Chang spent his residency there playing the different copies and recording each spin, with the ultimate goal of pressing his own version. The end result will be an audio collage of at least 200 different copies of the album played simultaneously, compete with skips and scratches. The cover will be a composite as well, highlighting the fact that previous owners had found the need to decorate their copies in various ways.
During the run at Recess Gallery, Chang bought a number of copies of the disc to add to his collection, bringing the total to more than 725.
Meanwhile, the gallery became “a sort of a meeting place for collectors,” featuring a mix of many different types of visitors, from “art people to Beatle obsessives,” the artist said. Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Ranaldo stopped by to chat and gather info for his Web site, but Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono never did, Chang noted.
One could wax on (sorry) for quite a while about the meaning of all this — the ravages of time, the communal experience of a shared cultural artifact, obsession as art. Let’s think for a moment about how a simple idea — a record with an almost-blank cover — can still start conversations 45 years after its release.
For more information on the project and the upcoming release, visit http://rutherfordchang.com/ .