Dead Darlings is an anonymous art auction founded in Amsterdam in 2005 by Tania Theodorou and Lina Ozerkina as a platform to explore the complex love triangle between artist, artwork, and collector.

The name was inspired by the phrase kill your darlings, something that we were both so often advised to do in art school and later learned as independent artists to do for ourselves, as difficult as that can be. A Dead Darling refers to a work that an artist is pleased with or may be emotionally attached to, but must be eliminated because it does not fit into his/her work as a whole. Whether finished, or in some intermediate stage of production, the work has been abandoned—killed—yet somehow remains dear to the artist. In an effort to resurrect these lost works we invite artists to give us a work that qualifies as a “Dead Darling”.

Sometimes we emphasize or explore what exactly killed each darling. For example, in our 2009 Auction Inadvertent Copy we asked artists to give us works that looked like other artists’ work, and had to be eliminated—rendering them Dead Darlings. In A-typical in 2008 we asked for experiments in different media that didn’t quite work out but still had that something… Sometimes we simply ask for Dead Darlings, and let each artist explain to us why the specific work fits the description.

Another element vital to our concept is context. What happens to an individual work once it is out of the hands of its creator? Does it continue to have a life or does it starve and die? Is there someone out there who can bring a Dead Darling back to life, someone who can give it a new context beyond the one the artist intended? A childhood memory awakened; an obsession with a specific object, pure speculation, or even the dominant colour scheme of a living room suite, all these could inspire someone to want to own a specific artwork. See what we are getting at? For better or worse, the context can be given by anyone who wants to pay for it, not because they know anything about the work or the artist’s reputation, but simply because they want/like it.

In order to further detach the work from the maker’s intention, we auction each lot by title only, letting the collectors forge a personal relationship to the piece they fall in love with independent of who the author might be. In order to give as many people as possible the chance to become collectors, we ask the artists to give us their work with very low starting prices. The participating artists are listed alphabetically, and only revealed in relation to their work after the sale of the lot.

The auction is held in an informal and casual atmosphere where the act of selling and acquiring art becomes a performance in its own right. The building of enthusiasm for these little outcasts binds makers and lovers of art together. We see it as a liberation, where every Darling gets the second chance it deserves.


The Dead Darlings.