Dead Darlings is an anonymous art auction founded in Amsterdam in 2005 as a platform to explore the complex love triangle between artist, artwork, and collector.
Our events combine elements of performance and exhibition. Our focus is on artefacts whose value is ambiguous: Dead Darlings. This refers to a work that an artist has created, yet for any variety of reasons, has not brought to light. The name Dead Darlings was inspired by the phrase “kill your darlings”, something that we were so often advised to do in art school and later had to learn as artists to do for ourselves.
We wondered what becomes of these ambivalent works, and what if we could help artists dig them up from the dusty corners of their studios and give them a chance to live and be seen?
Doing this through an auction makes sense, as this is a format where often buried treasures come to the surface, but since we ask artists to give up their darlings at absurdly low starting prices, it’s also a bit of a cheeky wink to the art market establishment by adopting and mocking one of its most solemn manifestations.
In addition to inviting artists to reflect on their own process, helping their dead darlings come back to life, we also aim to extend the label of “art collector” to people who would not otherwise be able to afford original contemporary art works.
What we try to do as a collective is bring something “unseen” out into the public. Our philosophy has been to feature established and museum level artists along side upcoming and more obscure artists. We try to reflect on why a particular work has been designated in such a way, challenging notions of value, demand, desirability and commerce.
At this moment our collective has a core of four principle members: Tania Theodorou, Lina Ozerkina, Hanna Mattes and Jessie Yingying Gong.
Through the years of presenting these works at our auctions and in our catalogues, we’ve had the chance to reflect on and expand the notion of what makes a Dead Darling dead, but more importantly, on what can bring it back to life!