All We Want Is More: The Tobias Wong Project
Tobias Wong, launch of This is a Lamp, 2000, at Fellissimo in New York City.

All We Want Is More: The Tobias Wong Project

Museum of Vancouver, Vancouver, BC - To Jul

by Michael Turner

It is often said that collage is the greatest innovation in 20th-century art. Another could be inversion: taking an idea or an object and turning it on its head. Marcel Duchamp did something similar with his “readymade” urinal (Fountain, 1917), as did Andy Warhol with his high/ low conflation of consumer goods (Brillo Box [Soap Pads], 1964). Tobias Wong (1974-2010) was a more recent practitioner, with his own distinctive twist.
Born and raised in Vancouver, Wong attended the University of Toronto for two years before moving to New York in 2000 to complete his education at Cooper Union. He majored in sculpture and took up permanent resi- dence in the city’s East Village. What followed was, by all accounts, a string of personal and professional successes. Though his death was ruled a suicide, his partner Tim Dubitsky believes Wong, who suffered from parasomnia, hung himself while “sleepwalking.”

Wong’s biggest influences were the art-as-life Dada and Fluxus movements, and he referred to himself as a paraconceptualist. What distinguished him from his predeces- sors was his focus on luxury goods: encasing pearls in black rubber, then returning them to their blue Tiffany boxes, or mak- ing a duvet and a rose brooch out of black Kevlar – all three of which were shown at MoMA in 2005. Another work from that year is his infamous collaboration with artist Amelia Bauer for the exclusive Art Basel Miami Beach art fair: strings of Swarovksi crystal sharing a tank with piranhas.

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