Sunday, December 18, 2011


After seeing my personal hero Maurizio Cattelan at the Guggenheim, all art hence will have a high hill to climb.  It helps if you transform the gallery into a giant slide.  German artist Carsten Höller did just that at the New Museum in NYC.  In addition to the slide (which bisects three floors of the museum), you will find a sensory deprivation tank (remove your clothes to enter), a beautiful minimalist carousel, a giant heap of complimentary pills, please take one (empty gelatin capsules), and the option to wear an impressive set of handmade goggles that turn everything in the gallery upside down.  Don't break them or it will set you back five grand. 

Höller was born in Brussels where his parents worked for the European Economic Community.  He studied agricultural science in school, specializing in the olfactory communication strategies of insects.  The title of his dissertation "Overwintering and hymenopterous parasitism in autumn of the cereal aphid Sitobion avenae (F.) in northern FR Germany" reveals nothing of his future career obsession with experiential installation art and sculpture.  Höller didn't begin making art until the late 1980s, and continued to work as a professional etymologist until 1994.  My favorite pieces in the show besides the slide (who doesn't love a slide!) were his giant mushroom sculptures.

Much of the Höller's work carries the cold detached air of disappointment: the things we build to entertain us never do the job wholly and completely.  We're always at arms length from fulfillment (and each other).  It's hard to like something that tries so hard to get you to fall in love with it.  The work feels needy.  That said, where else can you ride a slide in an art museum?


 A strobe light greets you at the bottom of the slide:


  1. "Needy" -- excellent take. Also true of a who,who,whole lotta art these days. Neediness in post-economic collapse American culture: Discuss.

  2. Do you mean 'entomologist'? As an amateur etymologist, I feel the need to ask. 'en' - 'tom' means the same in Greek as 'in' - 'sect' means in Latin. It's because they have segmented bodies, you see, so it looks as though they've been cut into parts, or sections. 'Etymos' means 'truth', so etymology is talking ('logos'; 'logia') about the true meaning of things, while entomology is talking about insects. Sorry to be so pedantic, but there is the possibility that pedantry may do some good.

  3. Good catch, Anonymous. Clearly I mistyped.