Mark Dion | Christmas Eve, 1933 | Vote Code 63568 | Jurors’ Shortlist finalist in the Installation category

New York, New York

Artist Statement

Artist Mark Dion interrogates the form, function and politics of museum display and exhibition. The institutional convention of the period room, those meticulous reconstructions of interiors frozen in time, have been a focus of Dion’s work for some time and he has produced period room installations for a number of museums. Christmas Eve, 1933, is a carefully refurbished room within the rectory of the parish church of St. Joseph the Worker on Rumsey Street. The scene recreates the cluttered parlor of a parish priest about to return home after the last service of the evening. The building’s interiors, otherwise unoccupied and deteriorating, stands in stark contrast to the melancholic domestic scene of Christmas Eve, 1933. This installation and period rooms in general takes their queues from several existing genres. The diorama format resembles a stage set without an actor. It is also reminiscent of Dutch still life paintings depicting a partially finished meal. In those forms, the presence of a person is suggested by their absence, the implication being that the individual has temporarily left the setting, and will return at any moment. This can elicit in viewers an uncomfortable sense of being an uninvited voyeur. Mark Dion has created large-scale installations that recontextualize museum collections, creating new narratives that challenge our ideas about institutional and personal systems of ordering and classification. Sometimes ideas that underpin our beliefs and actions exist without being noticed, and even a small disruption of expectations can open our minds to new possibilities. The work for ArtPrize was keenly influenced by the history of the rectory building and its future demolition. Assembled from dozens of private, commercial, and institutional collections, Christmas Eve, 1933, inspires visitors to make connections and construct the history of the individual who inhabited this place.

Reflexión del Artista

El artista Mark Dion interroga sobre la forma, la función y las políticas de las muestras y exposiciones de los museos. La convención institucional de las salas de distintas épocas, esas meticulosas reconstrucciones de interiores paralizadas en el tiempo, ha sido el centro del trabajo de Dion desde hace algún tiempo y el artista ha creado salas de época para varios museos. Christmas Eve, 1933 es una habitación meticulosamente reequipada dentro de la rectoría de la iglesia parroquial de San José Obrero en Rumsey Street. La escena recrea la sala de recepción abarrotada del sacerdote de la parroquia que está a punto de regresar a casa luego de realizar el último servicio de la noche. El interior del edificio, que de otro modo estaría desocupado y en deterioro, se presenta en riguroso contraste con la melancólica escena doméstica que exhibe Christmas Eve, 1933.

Las instalaciones y salas de época en general están inspiradas en varios géneros existentes. El formato diorama se asemeja a un escenario sin actor. También evoca las pinturas de naturaleza muerta holandesas que representan comidas parcialmente terminadas. En esas formas se sugiere la presencia de una persona por su ausencia, con la implicación de que la misma ha abandonado temporalmente la escena y que regresará en cualquier momento. Esto puede provocar que quienes ven la obra tengan la sensación incómoda de ser los mirones de una escena a la que no han sido invitados.

Mark Dion ha creado instalaciones a gran escala que vuelve a contextualizar las colecciones de los museos, creando nuevas narrativas que desafían nuestras ideas sobre los sistemas institucionales y personales de orden y clasificación. A veces las ideas en las que se basan nuestras creencias y acciones existen sin que nos demos cuenta y hasta una pequeña alteración de las expectativas puede abrir nuestra mente para aceptar nuevas posibilidades. La obra para ArtPrize fue influida profundamente por la historia del edificio de rectoría y su futura demolición.

Armada a partir de decenas de colecciones privadas, comerciales e institucionales, Christmas Eve, 1933 inspira a los visitantes para que relacionen los elementos y reconstruyan la historia de la persona que habitó este lugar.


Since the early 1990s, Mark Dion has examined the ways in which dominant ideologies and public institutions shape our understanding of history, knowledge, and the natural world. Appropriating archaeological and other scientific methods of collecting, ordering, and exhibiting objects, the artist creates works that address distinctions between objective scientific methods and subjective influences. By locating the roots of environmental politics and public policy in the construction of knowledge about nature, Dion questions the authoritative role of the scientific voice in contemporary society.

Born in Massachusetts in 1961, Dion currently lives in New York City. He received a BFA and an honorary doctorate from the University of Hartford School of Art, Connecticut in 1986 and 2003, respectively. He also studied at the School of Visual Arts in New York from 1982-84, and participated in the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Independent Study Program from 1984-85. He has received numerous awards, including the ninth annual Larry Aldrich Foundation Award (2001) and the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Lucida Art Award (2008).

Throughout the past two decades, his work has been the subject of major exhibitions worldwide. Notable solo exhibitions include Mark Dion: The Academy of Things at The Academy of Fine Arts Design in Dresden, Germany (2014), The Macabre Treasury at Museum Het Domein in Sittard, The Netherlands (2013), Oceanomania: Souvenirs of Mysterious Seas at Musée Océanographique de Monaco and Nouveau Musée National de Monaco / Villa Paloma in Monaco (2011), The Marvelous Museum: A Mark Dion Project at Oakland Museum of California (2010-11), Systema Metropolis at Natural History Museum, London (2007), The South Florida Wildlife Rescue Unit at Miami Art Museum (2006), Rescue Archaeology, a project for the Museum of Modern Art (2004), and his renowned Tate Thames Dig at the Tate Gallery in London (1999).

In 2012, his work was included in dOCUMENTA 13, curated by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev in Kassel, Germany, and has also been exhibited at MoMA PS1 in New York, Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain, Minneapolis Institute of Art in Minnesota, Arp Museum Bahnhof Rolandseck in Remagen, Germany, and Kunsthaus Graz in Austria.

The artist has also completed numerous public commissions during his career, which include Den, a site-specific installation for the National Tourist Routes in Norway (2012), An Archaeology of Knowledge for John Hopkins University (2012), and Ship in a Bottle for Port of Los Angeles Waterfront (2011).

His work can be found in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Tate Gallery, London, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Museum of Modern Art in New York, Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, Hamburger Kunsthalle in Germany, Harvard University Art Museums in Massachusetts, and the Israel Museum of Art in Jerusalem, among others.

Presently, he is a mentor at Columbia University in New York and co-director of Mildred’s Land, an innovative visual art education and residency program in Beach Lake, Pennsylvania. He lives with his wife, the artist Dana Sherwood in New York City and works worldwide.


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