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The GALA Committee

Still from the Fox TV show Melrose Place, 1992–99. Season 5, episode 9. Kimberly Shaw (Marcia Cross) and Matt Fielding (Doug Savant) with GALA Committee’s Chinese Take Out, 1995–97.

In 1995, the curators Julie Lazar and Tom Finkelpearl asked the artist Mel Chin to take part in “Uncommon Sense,” a group show at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, dedicated to exploring art that engaged the public sphere beyond the confines of the museum. At the time, Chin was already known as a Conceptual artist whose wide-ranging, community-oriented work often extended far beyond the gallery or the studio. (In the sculptural-environmental project Revival Field, begun in 1991 while Chin was in residency at the Walker Art Center, for instance, he collaborated with botanists on the design of gardens of “hyperaccumulators”—plants that are able to draw heavy metals from tainted earth, cleaning it in the process.) In response to Lazar and Finkelpearl’s request, Chin invited students and faculty from the University of Georgia and CalArts (schools where he was teaching at the time), along with additional artists and friends from across the US, to form a 102-person-strong collective that they dubbed the GALA Committee. The work that Chin and his group created over the following two years for the LA MoCA show, installed in 1997, was a blend of long-game Conceptualism, Dada-esque intervention, and whoopee cushion–style pranksterism—all played out against the highly unlikely backdrop of the wildly popular prime-time soap opera Melrose Place.