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An Ideological Candy Shop Gave Croatian History Lessons at Art Basel

Irena Haiduk’s booth as part of the Kabinett Section of Art Basel offered candy to fairgoers….if they were willing to take a political stance.
Images courtesy of the artist and Kavi Gupta Gallery

Perusing the booths of the 269 galleries exhibiting at this year’s edition of Art Basel Miami Beach was effectively impossible to do nonstop; fairgoers were bound to need a coffee or Cubano refuel at one of the many cafés in the convention center at some point. Attendees itching for sugar however, were presented with a much more interesting option: the art-meets-candy store booth by Irena Haiduk of Kavi Gupta Gallery, part of the Kabinett section of the fair.


Slightly less straightforward than your local confectionery, Haiduk’s Bon Bon Bon Ton (3 Bon, 1 Ton): Balkan Outlet asked more from its prospective customers than a sugar craving and some money. If interested in purchasing candy, the fairgoer had to fill out a form stating their name, their income level (lower, middle, upper), and measure their stress level in terms of “weight carried upon your shoulders” (low is 11lbs, middle is 33lbs, high is 55lbs or more).

After these curiously personal bits of information were revealed, the final section of the form asked you to select a “candy period” representative of your ideological “taste,” with 4 distinct options available to choose from: Imperialism, Fascism, Communism/Socialism, and Capitalism.

Slightly more than just a weird marketing survey or an arbitrary questionnaire, each answer yielded a different effect on the candy outcome: “The selected income level determined how much visitors paid for the resulting package; the weight and pressure of living determined the weight of the candy and which book was given (selected from three books containing oral pamphlets I wrote, which vary from the levity of humor to writings demanding brain blood sacrifice); and the section of ideological taste determined the kind of candy they received,” Haiduk explains to The Creators Project.

All of these correlations are somewhat odd but also sort of sensible, except for the parallels drawn between the selected ideology and the type of candy received. But the specific type of candy Haiduk distributed (a far cry from your run-of-the-mill Skittles or Haribo) bridged this gap of information: “The candy on offer was produced by a Croatian confectionary, Josip Kraš, formerly Union Candy,” the artist reveals. “Kraš survived all four ideological “options” without gaps in production: the first Yugoslavia (imperialist, established in 1918), WWII when Croatia joined the fascists, the second (communist) Yugoslavia, the Bosnian civil war in the 1990s, and ultimately the privatized transnational capitalism of the EU.”


Transforming the act of consumption into a reflection of one’s political beliefs is a cleverly calculated move in a cultural time of political unrest and shown at an event that is perhaps the epitome of ostentatious capitalism, results that are in line with Haiduk’s goal for her project: “I intended this transaction to be about class awareness, the meanings of weight, and the corruption of mind and teeth via books and candy,” tells the artist. “The main thing I wanted the project to do is serve inequality back in an engaging way.”

Check out more of Irena Haiduk’s works here, and stay tuned for future shows by the artist at Kavi Gupta Gallery.


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