John Baldessari's Ear Sofa; Nose Sconces with Flowers (in Stage Setting), 2009

John Baldessari
Ear Sofa; Nose Sconces with Flowers (in Stage Setting), 2009

Performance

Sarah Douglas on Artnews: I saw it at the Art Basel fair two years ago, a spotlit white sofa in the form of an ear flanked by two white sconces in the shape of inverted noses. Each nostril held a bouquet of white lilies; the ear held a real live lounging woman, dressed in white, wearing a platinum wig, accompanied by an impeccably groomed white poodle.

The piece initially rubbed me the wrong way: who needed a facile attempt to out-kooky Dalí’s “Mae West room”? But then came the thousands upon thousands of fair-goers with their phones who, Instagram post by Instagram post, diffused the woman-and-dog-bearing ear to a fine mist of images, and I began to think about it differently. Ear Sofa was perfect for Instagram, perfect for its moment, telegraphing all the vanity and absurdity of art fairs. The piece has been under my skin since then because of Baldessari’s prescience. He created and first staged it in 2009, a year before Instagram’s launch; he seemed to have known what was coming.

Sarah Douglas on Artnews: I saw it at the Art Basel fair two years ago, a spotlit white sofa in the form of an ear flanked by two white sconces in the shape of inverted noses. Each nostril held a… more

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