FOTO: © Tom Sachs, 'Kitty Fountain'. Courtesy Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, London · Paris · Salzburg · Seoul © Tom Sachs


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Do it yourself—New York artist Tom Sachs, born in 1966, rose to fame in the late 1990s with works of art in the style of luxury brands. For example, he crafted a ›Prada Toilet‹ (1997) and a three-meter-high, functioning ›Chanel Guillotine‹ (1998) from original luxury brand packaging. Sachs calls this technique of inventive improvisation and tinkering »bricolage«. In 2003, he created ›Nutsy’s‹ for the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin, a room-filling installation with a self-built McDonald's, Le Corbusier skyscrapers, a sculpture park, and a mini car racetrack.

His three-meter-high ›Kitty Fountain‹, cast in bronze, was created in 2008 and will be on display in front of the PalaisPopulaire as of September 15, 2021. Originally part of the monumental sculptural ensemble ›Bronze Collection‹, this group of fountains was installed in the Noguchi Gardens of New York’s Lever House in 2008, and in the same year was shown as part of an exhibition on Place du Trocadéro overlooking the Eiffel Tower in Paris.  

For the ensemble, Sachs brought together the iconic children’s characters ›Hello Kitty‹ and ›My Melody‹, both launched by the Japanese company Sanrio in 1974, with ›Miffy‹, a small rabbit designed by Dutch author and graphic designer Dick Bruna in 1955. All three characters are mass marketed as merchandising products and are characterized by strong graphic stylization, running counter to the idea of a detailed, classical sculpture.

Tom Sachs has often referred to the Japanese kitten figure ›Kitty‹ as a ›merchandising icon‹. Perhaps among other things because its design with a missing mouth enables the viewer’s emotions to be projected onto it. This empty space is of particular interest to the artist.

For ›Kitty Fountain‹, Sachs worked using the original toys and merchandise. He and his assistants first made an enlarged version from white foam sheets assembled using hot glue and then cut into shape. This prototype was subsequently cast in bronze and elaborately painted white to imitate the feel of the foam surface as closely as possible.

Sachs created a kind of »Super-Kitty« out of ›Kitty Fountain‹: something concocted yet completely slick, a naïve, cheerful toy that at the same time questions the radically commercialized world.


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