Alchemy: Turning S#!t Into Gold from Unusual and Exigent by Nelson Saiers at Hg Contemporary Art Gallery

Alchemy: Turning S#!t Into Gold

Untitled from Unusual and Exigent by Nelson Saiers at Hg Contemporary


Untitled from Unusual and Exigent by Nelson Saiers at Hoerle-Guggenheim Contemporary Art Gallery


Citywide Blackout from Unusual and Exigent by Nelson Saiers at Hg Contemporary Art Gallery

Citiwide Blackout

Press Release

ARTIST, MATH Ph.D., & FORMER HEDGE FUND MANAGER, UNVEILS:                                                              

Unusual and Exigent Nelson Saiers’ Deep Dive into the 2008 Crisis

10 Years Later


Opening reception: May 17th , 2018


HG Contemporary

527 W 23rd Street, New York, NY 10011



Unusual and Exigent offers a Deep Dive into the 2008 Crisis through the Lens of the Math and Algorithms That Run Wall Street


NEW YORK —Unusual and Exigent, Nelson Saiers’ current exhibition at HG Contemporary, has been extended until September 1st, 2018, the 10-year anniversary of Lehman Brothers' declaring Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Saiers, an artist, Math Ph.D., and former hedge fund manager and proprietary bank trader, explores many of the issues, in a nonpartisan way, that are relevant to President Trump's ongoing work altering the Dodd-Frank Bill (and Volker Rule) in this new body of work. 

Named for the language in the pivotal section 13(3) of the Federal Reserve Act, Unusual and Exigent provides a social and historical discourse on Saiers’ experience as a proprietary trader in 2008. The artist does a deep dive into the many incredibleaspects of the crisis, including its causes, victims, and even the controversial government bailouts executed to stem the crisis. This exhibition speaks to the never-ending pull of money and greed that played a major role in the crisis and continue to affect society today. Saiers’ mission is to encourage viewers to reflect on these events, so as to keep society informed and, hopefully, help thwart repeating past mistakes. 

Saiers’ process to create the works was multi layered, and the pieces include snippets of the program/algorithm that helped run his hedge fund. Found objects including helicopter parts, a parachute and a used tiger zoo toy are also incorporated in the works. Even the process to paint the works (which included using "homeless signs" and boxing gloves) all help to give a thorough commentary on the unusual and exigent events comprising the 2008 crash.


Call It What You Want


One of the most striking pieces is a 25’ wide sculpture titled "Ben Couldn’t Make An Appearance But He Left These Instead." The piece features two gold painted helicopter rotor blades, and tells the story of "Helicopter" Ben Bernanke while wrestling with monetary systems (from the gold standard to fiat money), hawkish and dovish policies, and crashes. The piece takes a clean and minimalist display and transforms it into striking commentary on complex policies, with an injection of the artist’s humor.

Another work, What a Mess, tells the story of JP Morgan’s purchase of Bear Stearns through a complex personification and imagined exchange between the heads of each at different moments in time. The legendary investor J.P. Morgan was known for playing the card game solitaire while contemplating different strategies and bailouts. Jimmy Cayne, the ex-CEO of Bear Stearns, notoriously and irresponsibly disappeared for meaningful portions of time to play bridge as his firm plunged towards it demise. The artist attached numerous cell phones to the painting as a reminder of the multitude of actors at play in a deal of this magnitude.


Alchemy: Turning $#!+ into Gold


The artist also explores some of the more visible outrages that emerged as a result of the crisis.  Composed of a painting and a parachute painted gold, Saiers’ Alchemy: Turning $#!+ into Goldcomments on the extreme compensation and in some instances large exit packages (golden parachute) many Wall Street CEOs received leading up to 2008 crash. The painting includes a gold $1 dollar coin next to the words "heads I win tails you lose". These elements point to the fact that executives were often handsomely rewarded whether their institutions were profitable or not. Many of these institutions were subsequently bailed out by US taxpayers. The choice to use Warren Harding's image on the coin has several interpretations including an interesting anecdote from his life. Harding, who was president from 1920-23, paid off a personal poker debt by giving away White House china, property owned by the US taxpayer. Other elements of the piece include crossed out versions of the word "win" written in larger and larger font. This points to the never-ending pull of money and greed that played a major role in the crisis: no matter how great the win, even more was desired.


About The Artist

Having grown up in Ethiopia and Afghanistan, Saiers' art is motivated by his childhood experiences surviving two wars including tanks firing outside his house in Afghanistan. Having earned a Ph.D. in mathematics at the age of 23, his art is informed by contributions to mathematics from the time of Euclid through the 20th century. His time working in the financial industry, including running a derivative hedge fund called Saiers Capital, has provided him with insight into markets and their irrational behavior, further deepening his understanding of human nature en masse. He has assimilated these formidable experiences into a lens for assessing and critiquing the human condition. Saiers not only uses mathematical theories in his work but transcends them into something personal and mystifying. Saier’s work has been shown across the, including Harvard University's Leverett House, The Edwardian Room at the Plaza Hotel, HG Contemporary in New York, and Alcatraz Island in San Francisco.


About HG Contemporary

HG Contemporary is a breakthrough gallery founded by Philippe Hoerle-Guggenheim in 2014. The gallery has built a reputation for unearthing distinct artists and producing shows that embrace groundbreaking aesthetics and concepts. The gallery is committed to developing an international contemporary program that is ambitious as well as diverse. This commitment carries with it an innovative and clear vision about producing exceptional art exhibitions as well as a deep understanding of visual culture's function within and beyond the walls of the gallery. This approach includes a digital path, which is under way. 


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