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Peter Fischli David Weiss: How to Work Better

Mable Yiu

Peter Fischli David Weiss,  How to Work Better  (1991) Houston and Mott Streets NYC, January 2016 / Photo: Jason Wyche, Courtesy Public Art Fund, NY

Peter Fischli David Weiss, How to Work Better (1991) Houston and Mott Streets NYC, January 2016 / Photo: Jason Wyche, Courtesy Public Art Fund, NY

Have you seen Peter Fischli David Weiss: How to Work Better in Lower Manhattan? Organized by the Public Art Fund, it is the first presentation in the United States of the artists’ iconic wall mural. In 1991, the work was originally painted on an office building in Zurich.

Coinciding with the Guggenheim’s retrospective exhibition of the same name, How to Work Better (1991) is a six-story painted mural of an enlarged motivational ten-point list for the workplace that the artists found on a bulletin board in a factory in Thailand. The simple statements —“Distinguish sense from nonsense”, “Accept change as inevitable”, “Learn to Listen”, “Smile”—propose a code of behavior that extends well beyond the workplace. This tongue-in-cheek bulletin suggests that “working better” is as much about an approach to everyday life as it is about productivity.

At approximately 50 feet tall and 20 feet wide, it was hand painted on the south face of a building on Houston Street at the corner of Mott Street. The mural is intentionally placed nearby billboards and advertisements. In contrast to the commercial backdrop, How to Work Better (1991) catches your eye, selling nothing beyond a simple code of conduct.

“How to Work Better points to an ethos that has deeply informed the artists’ collaborative practice and their approach to making work. Over the years, the piece has become an analogue meme, with small copies taped to the walls of countless studios and desks, advocating a practice of thoughtfulness and caring in the way art is made and presented,” said Andria Hickey, Public Art Fund Curator.  “On Houston Street, the piece is quite literally tacked to the wall of New York City, asking us to consider how we can all work better in our own lives—our work, commutes, personal interactions—and reminding us that it’s not always what we do, but how we choose to do it that matters.”

Public Art Fund’s presentation of Peter Fischli David Weiss: How to Work Better is on view until May 1, 2016 at Houston and Mott Streets.

The Leadership Committee for How to Work Better is gratefully acknowledged, including Jill & Peter Kraus, Maja Oeri & Hans Bodenmann, Donald A. Capoccia, Elizabeth Fearon Pepperman & Richard C. Pepperman II, Sprueth Magers, and Molly Duffy Burns & Hugh Burns. Additional support is provided by Matthew Marks Gallery, Galerie Eva Presenhuber, and the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia. Special assistance has been provided by Overall Murals. Public Art Fund exhibitions are supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts and by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

By Alexandra Fairweather