Barneys New York in 1994 had one of the most provocative Christmas storefront windows in the city. Shoppers were greeted with three Bart Simpson wise men, a McDonald’s stamped stable, and a Hello Kitty Virgin Mary. This was the holiday ruse of Tom Sachs (b. 1966), a Westport, Connecticut-born artist whose fascination with consumerism and luxury goods became the basis of his work. Sachs explained, “I started out doing work about brands as a way of investigating my feelings about luxury goods: wanting them, being offended by them, both at the same time.” Prior to opening his studio, Allied Cultural Prosthetics, in New York’s machine district, Sachs improved his fabrication skills during an internship at Frank Gehry’s workshop in Los Angeles. After his 1994 Barneys display, Sachs began exhibiting his “cultural prosthetics,” homemade grenades and guns branded with high fashion logos, at New York and Parisian galleries. While many of his pieces are inoperable, Sachs has constructed working objects: firearms, Knoll furniture from discarded phone books, a grand piano, and a refrigerator. According to Sachs, his career-spanning attraction to Hello Kitty and her friend Miffy stems from the cartoon icons’ “almost Buddhist sense of nothingness.” At a first-floor exhibit in New York’s Lever House, Sachs installed two 10-foot crying Hello Kitty and Miffy fountains with water pouring from their eyes. The white-painted bronze Crying Hello Kitty (2008) was placed in front of the Eiffel Tower. Hello Kitty (circa 2000), a Gucci hatbox lid with the familiar feline painted on the underside, is exemplary of Sachs’ subversive commentary of consumerist iconography.
Sperone Westwater is currently exhibiting Tom Sachs’ latest solo show “Work”, which is open now through December 17, 2011. This show precedes Sachs’ major interactive exhibition ASTRONAUTS TRAINING MANUAL; SPACE PROGRAM 2.0: MARS, co-presented by Creative Time and Park Avenue Armory, and on view at Park Avenue Armory in New York from May – June 2012.
– Paul Des Marais, Contributing Writer
Acrylic and pencil on gift box lid
16” x 18.25” x 1.75”
December 11, 2011 Auction
Sheets, Hilarie M. “This Is His Life: A Blue Whale and Hello Kitty.” Nytimes.com. New York Times, 4 May 2008. Web. 23 Oct. 2011.
Tom Sachs. Tom Sachs Studio, 2011. Web. 23 Oct. 2011.