Stealing Beauty is a video made by Guy Ben-Ner and his family in IKEA stores in different parts of the world. The shooting was done in secret with customers constantly walking in front of the camera and getting in the way. On being caught and stopped from filming, the family had to start again in another store. Ben-Ner uses the IKEA show rooms – living rooms, bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchens – as sets for scenes of domestic life comparable to American sitcoms, talking with his wife and children about family values, private property and strategies of territorial occupation. It is above all the children with their questions that place the father in an increasingly awkward position and undermine his vision of the family as a pure economic model. The video ends with the two children reading out an anarchist manifesto urging people to steal private and public property.
Like many of Ben-Ner’s previous works, Stealing Beauty again focuses on the boundaries between public and private space. Instead of acting out classic movies in the confined space of his apartment with the aid of his family so as to link the collective memory of those images with his private environment, the artist now occupies public space with his private sitcom for the first time. He does exactly what IKEA asks us to do, namely to feel at home. In any case, this is quite normal, since nearly all the houses in the world contain an article from IKEA. In absurd contrast with the egalitarian image projected by the industrial complex, Ben-Ner develops a discussion of private property and territorial boundaries that not only flatly contradicts the normal model of the sitcom, where all financial questions are strictly banished from everyday life, but also represents an incursion of reflection on the middle-class concept of property into the perfect world of IKEA advertising. With its amateurish filming of scenes by means of a hidden camera, Stealing Beauty opposes the illusory world created by cinema and television and draws analogies between the appeal of cinema and advertising strategies in an increasingly global market.
Guy Ben-Ner (Ramat Gan, 1969) represented Israel at the 51st Venice Biennial. He has held solo shows at the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, the Herzliya Museum of Art in Israel, and the Musée d’art contemporain in Montreal. He has also taken part in group exhibitions at the PAN in Naples, the MoMA and P.S. 1 in New York, the Museum of Haifa, the Skulptur Projekte in Münster and the Tate Modern in London. Guy Ben-Ner lives and works in New York.