October 17, 2009

"Breast Trophy" — it's in the Smithsonian!

DSC04598

I was rather appalled at this work of art, and not because of the message or the sculptural idea of combining breasts and a trophy. I was appalled because it looked so bad, like an after-hours ceramics class project that made everyone laugh — who was it handed to? — before it was thrown in the trash. But it's in the Smithsonian:
Robert Arneson
Breast Trophy
1964
stoneware
19 3/4 x 11 3/4 x 8 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase made possible by the Smithsonian Institution Collections Acquisition Program

That sagging female breasts can be called a trophy contradicts the idea of commemorative trophies. Robert Arneson's observation of human behavior and American cultural mores—that men and women have an obsession with female breasts—inspired this trophy and its pithy social comment. The artist also brings to our attention the discomforting truth that women are often turned into objects. The most evident example of this cultural phenomenon is the phrase "trophy wife." The title Breast Trophy transforms the piece into a witty visual pun.
Uh, thanks United States government for telling me this thing that I can perfectly well look at is "witty" and "pithy." Did our tax money buy that thing?

84 comments:

traditionalguy said...

An older Trophy Wife.This is definitely the breast theme of the week

rhhardin said...

Turning women into objects isn't what's going on in the first place.

It's being attracted to them for no good reason that's going on.

It's not as if the guy has a choice in the matter.

He'll then like your personality through a series of displacements, if you act appropriately.

But the so-called objectification is what gets the ball rolling. It's your opportunity.

daubiere said...

"Did our tax money by that thing"

great you now sound like one of your mouth breathing lay-z-boy art critic commenters, right down to the misspelling.

Balfegor said...

I was appalled because it looked so bad, like an after-hours ceramics class project that made everyone laugh — who was it handed to? — before it was thrown in the trash.

Unfortunately, there's a lot of stuff like that in the Hirschorn, the Smithsonian's main modern art museum on the National Mall. A lot of the sculpture looks kind of crude and cheap, like the artist lacked the technical skill to carry his/her plan out. The quality:dross ratio at the Hirschorn is worse, I think, than at any of the other art museums in DC -- even the National Portrait Gallery/American Art Museum, which has a lot of crap mixed in (but which has a fun collection, and often fun exhibitions too).

Theo Boehm said...
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Mr. Smarterthanyou said...

THIS IS WHY ART SHOULD BE PRIVATE!!
Us conservatives have been pissed about our tax $$$ going to morons to do moronic things. Let art be privately funded.

And let's stop wasting financial aid on art history majors.

Theo Boehm said...
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Big Mike said...

Did our tax money by [sic] that thing?

Obviously I can't be certain, but probably not, you'll be relieved to know. The Smithsonian likes to get somebody to donate things for free. (On the other hand, the person who does the donating gets a tax writeoff, so in the sense that the national debt went up a tick because of the lost tax revenue, perhaps the answer is affirmative after all.)

Theo Boehm said...
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Alex said...

Liberals feel their "deconstruction" art should be federally funded, as it serves a high moral purpose. That is to deconstruct America.

traditionalguy said...

We keep our monuments and trophies in DC, but the country is run from NYC...or has it changed to Chicago. The Smithsonian is about American culture and that is a big subject covering the past 200 years. They have now opened an exhibit on the Snowboard's invention by a Michigan man, then living in Steamboat Springs Co, named Sherman Poppen. That is a Dutch name. This big country has a great history of inventions by Mid-Westerners.

Theo Boehm said...
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MamaM said...

What is the big cave next to it?

It looks like some kind of Uterine Break Out. FREEEEEEEEE at last!

Theo Boehm said...
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Bissage said...

Those breasts might be sagging, but that Morton’s toe is kicking!

edutcher said...

As I said before, the place where I used to work had stuff like that. If management had sold off junk like that, maybe they wouldn't have felt it necessary to lay off a third of IT.

Needless to say, modern art is an oxymoron in most cases.

WV "scout" OMG a real word!!

MamaM said...

No shirez here, Theo...Dove chocolate though, enhancing serotonin function

You'll have to give more of a hint.

In 64 I was still believing there was a chance I might end up with a pair of breasts that looked like Barbie's.

Chip Ahoy said...

One of my favorite objects is an ugly vase like that. It's not witty or pithy or anything artistic like this one, it's just ugly. Really ugly. It's so ugly it makes me love it. It frightens children. Once I took it to a neighborhood florist for them to do whatever they would with an arrangement then picked it up a week later. The shopkeeper told me they never got so many remarks about a vase. People either loved it or hated it. It would probably be good for Halloween candy.

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MamaM said...

Shirez, Shiraz
What would I know?
I'm busy looking up
Morton's toe.

Is the hole in the left vase in a foot shape?

Theo Boehm said...
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quilbilly said...

Craptacular art can also be found in hospitals and such where they feel compelled to patronize local "artists." Though I suppose a hospital wouldn't buy boob-art. But they really should.

former law student said...

I note that the sculptor was also a professor at a state university -- UC Davis in his case, a pleasant college/country town, near the seat of state government.

After art school, Arneson got an MFA from a women's college, so presumably he received a wide exposure to breasts.

As far as I can tell, our federal tax dollar goes to pay salaries and expenses, as well as buildings and their maintenance, not to buying objects, many of which are donated. Many SI employees are paid by the Trust, not by the taxpayer.

I was made curious to note a list of perhaps two dozen sources of funds for a Mies Barcelona chair, inclusing the SICAP.

MamaM said...

The WV is "shinsa"--a good name for the sculpture on the left. Shinsa!!!!

Sadly, it's appearing to me as the left vase might be more of a Kicked in the Uterus type trophy rather than the Break Out to Freedom kind.

This is the kind of photo I consider to be a "fun" picture because it allows room for speculation along with a pair of lop-sided breasts.

Theo Boehm said...
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Peter V. Bella said...

Now we know the rest of the story. The character E.T. was based on that piece of art.

montana urban legend said...

So the Smithsonian recognizes the significance of combining breasts and prizes in American culture...

Somewhere out there is a jealous art student!

At first I thought you said that you were appalled at the idea of combining breasts and atrophy.

Theo Boehm said...
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Pogo said...

"the idea of combining breasts and atrophy.

But that would leave just two flaps of skin, like coin purses.

Ann Althouse said...

As for the suggestion that it was donated, the linked & copied text says "Museum purchase made possible by the Smithsonian Institution Collections Acquisition Program." The only question is where the money for the program comes from. I assume it's tax money.

traditionalguy said...

I have known a few wealthy collectors of Art from the latest artists popular in the 1980s or 1990s. When the collectors needed to move and downsize their space, there were no buyers for the art works anymore in hard times. If they had paid $20,000 and had a $80,000 appraisal all was bragging rights and comforting until the market disappeared. Now their only way to deal with the need to unload it when moving to a smaller place was to find a City Building, Park, Hospital, College, etc. that would take it as a donation and give a 501C(3) donation reciept for a tax deduction. I suspect that is why so much art seems to be suddenly appearing to be "purchased" by the local governments lately.

MadisonMan said...

I'm certain the artist is very fine, because as noted upthread, he was a tenured professor of Art in the UC system, and it's not possible that they would have deadwood in their Art studios. So certainly his work needs to be collected and displayed in the Smithsonian. It's just that special.

Theo Boehm said...
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former law student said...

The only question is where the money for the program comes from. I assume it's tax money.

While that's not an unreasonable assumption, the Smithsonian claims their acquisitions are made with private funds

See, for example, Page 19 of their latest Annual Report.

http://www.si.edu/opa/annualrpts/2008report/Smithsonian2008.pdf

Theo Boehm said...
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former law student said...

whoops: pdf page 19 is report pages 32 and 33

Theo Boehm said...
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MamaM said...

Theo...not quite a 60's haiku, but the best I can do while working the 5's and 7's around the showerhead discussion and installation taking place...

Trophy Breasts, fully prized
In summer bloom, droop empty
On memory's shelf

The wv BITIZE

JAL said...
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JAL said...

Before posing the model spent too much time lying on her stomach.

Her boobs have all those sheet wrinkles embossed in them.

JAL said...

Chip -- I actually like it.

I am wondering what the (ugly, pissed off) birds are thinking.

"Shhhh ....bequietbequietbequiet Nobody can see us."

or

"How long do you think we can stand here on our tails like this???!! Give us a break you jerk!!"

I bet if they were animated we'd know ....

Just sayin'

Robert said...

It would be "breast in show" because that trophy is definitely a dog.

bagoh20 said...

"Did our tax money buy that thing?"

Tax dollars are only worth a couple pennies on the private dollar. You don't get much for them.

Conversely, public tits are always larger and more impressive than private.

Doug Sundseth said...

"Theo...not quite a 60's haiku, but the best I can do while working the 5's and 7's around the showerhead discussion and installation taking place..."

See, if you were a real poet, instead of being a failed attempt at a Haiku syllabic scheme, that would have been a transgressive comment on the shackles imposed by tradition.

Art: It's not even wrong.

MamaM said...

Limited minds lie
Shackled by trangressive thoughts
Traditionally dead

garage mahal said...

I was rather appalled at this work of art,

Yea, me too.

*icky face*

Penny said...

"sometimes a person has too much chateauneuf de pape to spell correctly."

Speak for yourself, Theo. I no longer blow the flute, but more importantly, I drink five fifty bottles of Chardonnay while you worry about spelling.

*adjusts her lenses* and focuses on YOU, Theo.

Theo Boehm said...
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JAL said...

Lem is MIA.

MamaM said...

Okay Sunderford, I'm still no poet, but I used your pointed criticism to spur myself to greater effort. I fixed the meter, but will have to rely on implied seasonality

Trophy Breasts, highly
Prized and lifted up, now sag
Empty and encased.

I even fixed the one you inspired:

Limited minds lie
Shackled by trangressive thoughts
Dead in tradition.

(thank you theo...for sharing the good and generous spirit of Shiraz)

EDH said...

Peter V. Bella said...
Now we know the rest of the story. The character E.T. was based on that piece of art.

It does look like E.T., older now and thoroughly debauched by Hollywood, with a crooked smile on his face and a brassiere draped over his head.

Yet the Trophy was created in 1964?

Can you say Wormhole?

Penny said...

I miss Lem, and I suspect am more worried about him than I should be. That's just me.

He doesn't always look pretty, but he has never been in need of purpose.

Let me repeat that, "Lem has never been in need of purpose".

Penny said...

If I were thoughtful, I would pair up Lem and Crack as roommates.

I would make soup, and see how it goes from there.

Penny said...

"Things are not as they seem, Miss Moneypenny."

And I have long since cared about your tooting, Theo.

The difference between us is narrow, and best left for others to judge.

MamaM said...

Penny...inner resource and persistence are good portents, and Lem seems to have some of both.

I can imagine him getting Crack to laugh again, presenting him with thoughts so odd or on-target he'll never know what to expect, or at the very least I could see him providing just the right music for the moment. Music is good for the hard to reach places, and Lem could be a storehouse of healing in that regard, as long as he steered clear of the new age stuff!

ricpic said...

Cutting edge dreck is still cutting edge. And that's all that counts.

Bissage said...

yes. Bissage, that's Althouse's foot!

And now I realize that there is an implication in my 8:56 that I didn't intend.

I should have thought that comment through a bit more.

I apologize.

Jason (the commenter) said...

What would the Smithsonian's mother say if she saw that?

Michael Hasenstab said...

That trophy was a co-mammorative award.

Top-notch commenting, Theo!

wv: phing It don't mean a phing if it ain't got that swing.

Balfegor said...

巨乳とは
壷の飾りに
過ぎません

Meade said...

Bissage said...
"I should have thought that comment through a bit more."

(Nah... Intentional or not, for what it's worth, she found it startlingly hilarious.)

Michael Hasenstab said...

You do realize, don't you, that that trophy was for last place.

Fred4Pres said...

It is something you would expect in a frat house. It is not terrible, terrible, it is a one liner, but it is hardly great (and definitely not Smithsonian collection quality).

Now if they got the leg lamp from Christmas Story, now that is a major prize and a work of art!

Doug Sundseth said...

"But I'm not sure how one could be 'a failed attempt at a Haiku syllabic scheme.'"

Well, I'm not sure how "one" could be, but "that" could be. (It was a bit of a garden-path sentence, but not grammatically incorrect.)

"Seems more likely you could be a shell script what writes snark."

Does that pay well? I mean, I have a bit of skill, and that should be rewarded, right?

"Plus, you saved the best for last."

Oh, good. I was starting to wonder.

Theo Boehm said...
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Bissage said...

Startlingly hilarious?

Good.

Then all’s well that ends well!

MamaM said...

Quick to criticize, slow to praise.

The second haiku turned out much better than the first, due to Mr Sundseth's artful prodding.

mariner said...

sometimes a person has too much chateauneuf de pape to spell correctly.


Looks like you're there.

Theo Boehm said...
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Charlie K. said...

Show us your droopies and I bet this thing will look pretty good by comparison.

Balfegor said...

Show us your droopies and I bet this thing will look pretty good by comparison.

Isn't this sentiment usually expressed as "Tits or GTFO?"