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Artist Bert Rodriguez turns his apartment into a tiny museum dedicated to ... himself

by Collin Friesen and Darby Maloney | The Frame

The exterior of the 'Bert Rodriguez Museum' Bert Rodriguez

Here’s a question: how much of a body of work is needed before a museum is dedicated solely to one artist? Well if you’re Miami-born, L.A.-based Bert Rodriguez, and you’ve got a studio apartment just off Melrose that’s not doing much during the day, the answer is obvious. 

"We can go this way to the gift shop, though it’s more like a gift shelf, says Rodriguez, giving the official tour. "Like I said, small spaces…”

The tour doesn’t take very long.

We start by going over the various items you can purchase: a plaster cast of Rodriguez's nose, dollar bills encased in Lucite with sayings printed on them, and what he calls a collage, which looks a lot like a stack of multi-colored post-its.

“I was in Staples and I realized that, technically, collage is just pieces of paper stuck together," Rodriguez says. “So I got a stack of Post-its and then decided that would be a piece.”

Wearing his trademark white-frame glasses and heart-covered slip-on shoes, you get the feeling Rodriguez doesn’t mind thumbing his nose at the way art and art installations are supposed to be.  Case in point: The Bert Rodriguez Museum, its name on the front window in a stylish gallery font, will soon be accepting guests into the 500-square-foot studio apartment he calls home.

A promotional video projected onto the living room/gallery wall shows other times when Rodriguez has been a bit of a provocateur. His first ever solo show was a career retrospective featuring everything he had ever done since childhood. Other exhibitions have seen him offering foot rubs, providing couple’s counseling — he is not a licensed counselor — and one show even had him greeting guests while buried up to his neck in dirt.

On this day, here in his museum, there’s nothing really on display, because everything is on display.

Take that, gallery owners of America.

“It probably sounds like I’m lying when I say I don’t actually mean to like, stick it to the man," Rodriguez says. "Hard to talk about without saying, 'Yeah, [screw] you guys,' because there is a part of that in me. Of course I have a terrible problem with authority. Anyone that tells me there’s something I shouldn’t do, I’ll just do it.”

There’ll be a dog-in-residence at the museum eventually. And maybe some docents. But generally, a trip here is a look at a really well-appointed apartment with some pretty cool tchotchkes.

Rodriguez is filing the paperwork to make this a tax-exempt, non-profit museum. But he has a different work-space, so apart from making his bed every morning, or not, the impact on his life will be whatever he chooses it to be. Rodriguez says he does plan to be in residence for some of the museum tours, lectures and film screenings — what he calls an “artifact” in his own live-in display case.

If you get hungry during your visit, there’ll be an on-site cafe — aka the kitchen — and it will feature foods created by Soho House chef Mike Mugliano. Rodriguez's only rule for the menu?

“The caveat is the food has to be white, or mostly white. So he’s coming up with some amazing things, like a grilled cheese sandwich with white cheese and Japanese bread.”

Is there anything in the museum that he doesn’t consider art? The answer is no.

There’s an education center, a computer in a closet, and the bathroom mirror is covered in kitschy, positive affirmations like “You Cannot Fail” and “You Are Productive.”

Rodriguez has yet to hear from his landlord about all this. Despite the museum sign in the living room window, no one has knocked on the door and asked to come in. When it’s officially up and running, the hours will be 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Rodriguez hopes to bring in exhibits from other artists as well. 

“I’ll borrow their coffee mug — the coffee mug they drink coffee out of every morning — and that will be in the space," he says. "The Jackson Pollock coffee mug will be on display at the Bert Rodriguez Museum.”

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