Wednesday, May 11, 2016

My Encounter with Boy Hitler

It was at the Chicago Museum of Modern Art about ten years ago. We walked into an exhibit room that appeared to be empty. Then we turned into another room, also apparently empty. Where's the art? Is this part of the exhibit? Finally a third room, empty except for what looked to be the figure of a kneeling boy at the far end. He had his back to us.

Three rooms for this? We walked up to the figure, though I honestly can't remember why. I suppose it was because we felt that since we had come that far, we might as well go to the end.

A few more steps to get to the front of it. Then we were there. Suddenly, my companion let out a sort of nervous giggle. The kneeling "boy" was . . . Hitler.

The entire time we were the only ones in the set of rooms. I think I had an "ah, modern art" moment, and then forgot about it.

Until today.

A few minutes ago I read that a "kneeling Hitler statue" had sold at Christie's for $17.2 million. Was it that kneeling Hitler statue? The picture confirmed that it was.

The work is called "HIM."

Apparently "HIM" has been around. A few years ago it was displayed at an exhibit on the site of the Warsaw Ghetto. Yes, that Warsaw Ghetto. Once again, consideration had gone into the manner of its display. This time it was only visible from afar, through a hole in a wooden gate. And of course it simply looked like a small boy. You wouldn't know it was Hitler unless you had read the exhibit blurb. But of course that was probably why you were at the exhibit in the first place--to see boy Hitler through a hole in a wooden gate. Or to tell your friends about it or whatever.

98% of the commentary on it has been over whether the statue is "offensive." Does it "humanize" Hitler? Is that a good thing? And so on and so forth. Even the creator of the work claimed to be conflicted and said that he had considered smashing the piece: "I wanted to destroy it myself. I changed my mind a thousand times, every day."

Yeah. Sure you did.

The "artist," Maurizio Catalan had previously been best known for a life-size rendering of Pope John Paul II being hit by a meteorite. That piece only sold for $886,000.

Whatever else one might say about Catalan, his career has tracked the myriad possibilities of sculpture as performance art.

He once created an exhibit called "Another Fu**ing Readymade," which consisted entirely of objects stolen from another artist's show. Supposedly he was threatened with arrest.

And of course, he's the fellow responsible for the giant stone statue of a a raised middle finger. It was called "L.O.V.E."

Perhaps they'll put that one in Holy Name.


  1. Those whom God wants to destroy He first makes mad.

  2. Art does not exist in a vacuum. Hate the piece or love it, it has you making a post about it. Job done.

  3. No, you're right. And the progression from $886.000 to $17,100,000 in only a few years shows that it's working.

    One of these days I'm going to write about Warhol. Any suggestions?

    1. My art dealer said that Andy was the most loathsome person he had ever met.

  4. Went to a museum somewhere with the kids. They had an exhibit where guys dressed in German WWII uniforms herded us through... I don't even remember.

    Another time we went to the third floor of the St. Louis Art Museum. It was junk like a piece of barbed wire stapled to a board. I asked the guard what she had done to get on the third floor, and she said, "I don't know, but I hope I never do it again."

    I kind of like the Hitler piece. At least I can recognize him. btw "Look Who's Back" is a great book.

  5. Ann Barnhardt has it right that most of modern art is a result of Diabolical Narcissism