Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tom Sachs' "Hello Kitty" Leaves Lever House

Tom Sachs, Wind-Up Hello Kitty, 2008, sitting on a flatbed truck on 53rd Street, between Park and Madison Avenues. Photos: 16 Miles [more]

Until I found myself on number thirteen of the Observer’s list of New York’s “Top 50 Art Collectors” earlier today and saw real-estate developer Aby Rosen perched on the pedestal of one of Tom Sachs’ “Bronze Collection” pieces (My Melody, 2008), I had forgotten about an encounter I recently had outside his Lever House building. I was walking to the Museum of Modern Art on a Sunday morning earlier this month and came across a gigantic crane parked in the middle of 53rd Street, just west of Park Avenue. A team of men was in the process of removing Sachs’ Wind-Up Hello Kitty, the last vestige of the artist’s mid-2008 show for Rosen's Lever House Art Collection.

As Sachs’ web site explains, these sculptures were modeled with foamcore, which was “then cast in bronze, and ironically painted white to resemble the white foamcore surface.” Made of precious metals painted a generic color, they are big-money productions that very publicly advertise the transmutation of raw capital into high culture. And yet, even painted white, they are still, of course, enormous bronze sculptures. Moving one requires a massive crane, skilled movers, and at least one road closure. While they may not be much to look at as autonomous sculptures, they are thrilling to watch being moved: comical, infantile constructions that, despite their innocuous appearances, are unwieldy and potentially dangerous when set in motion.

Just as Franz West’s “Adaptives” (Paßtücke) are most pleasurable when being wielding by a user, Sachs’ works seem complete only when they are being set through a series of performative actions, carted about with the aid of heavy machinery or at least handled physically (I know I tapped on them when I visited), confirming their existences as decadent, barely disguised works made from expensive metal — which is why, I suspect, that many of the web sites about the works make a point of documenting their transport and installation.

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