Walker on Poketo

Rob Walker’s Consumed takes a look at Poketo

The project that became Poketo began in 2003 with a show at a space called Build, in the Mission District, featuring work by six artists. This time, in addition to paintings, the exhibition included wallets. The physical objects were all the same (stitched-together vinyl and plastic, folding to 4 inches by 4 inches), but each artist printed his or her own design on a set of a dozen wallets, which were priced at $15 each. While it is not unusual for a well-known artist to dabble in consumer goods that are more accessible to a wider audience, the wallets essentially reversed that formulation. These consumer goods served as promotional items that might draw attention to the work of a lesser-known artist. “We wanted to expose our friends to the wider world,” Myung says. Wallets were a particularly good medium, in that they are carried around, not hung on a wall at home.

We bought two of these gorgeous wallets at WonderCon a couple of years ago. I got a lot of great comments for my interesting wallet, featuring a sci-fi cartoon scene with aliens and interplanetary landscapes.

Not my wallet, but similar, by the same artist, Martin Ignatius Cendreda.

But it was a piece of crap. It was horribly designed, with insufficient holders for cards and an extraneous change purse (change purse? In a wallet?). And it didn’t last at all. I repaired it myself with clear packing tape many times. I was thrilled to have an ordinary item that was made special by its visual and artistic appeal, but why trade off basic functionality? Eventually, I gave up. I bought a recycled rubber wallet that is more subtle in its beauty (and its story), and I won’t go back to something that doesn’t work for me. I’d like to have seen Walker (or anyone else that reviews the work of these darlings) acknowledge that the product isn’t usable and doesn’t last.


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