Beyond Trompe l’Oeil Realism: Redefining the ‘Readymade’ in the Post-Digital Age

Kris Belden-Adams


In an exhibition-catalog essay for the 2012 exhibition “Lifelike” at The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, curator Siri Engberg suggested that “the utterly mundane reimagined through an artist’s careful hand or sly recontextualization can appear striking, even radical.” Thus, the Walker claimed that the meticulous, studied trompe l’oeil realism of the work in this exhibition aspired to make the familiar unfamiliar. While this is one approach to defining the goal of contemporary “hyper-realism,” another might include the reclaiming of the everyday “non-art” objects of Marcel Duchamp’s “readymade,” only to render them an extremely well-crafted form. For instance, Tom Friedman’s Untitled (2001) presents a convincing, realistically scaled bee made of clay, wire, hair, plastic, and paint. Only instead of fleeing the bee, viewers are encouraged to approach the insect as it sits quarantined and still in its vitrine, and to inspect the object at great detail. Friedman’s bee is refined and mesmerizingly skillful. In one of the final galleries, a miniature, ankle-level set of elevators made by Maurizio Cattelan (Untitled, 2001) occasionally ding to announce their arrivals, as viewers are invited to “call” the elevator by pressing the “up” buttons. The small metal sliding doors open to receive their imaginary passengers. Friedman and Cattelan both provide playful objects that entice viewers to look more closely at objects whose real-life counterparts rarely receive such scrutiny and enjoyment. Friedman and Cattelan thus reclaim the Duchampian “non-art” object for the realm of “craft.” Both make “art” from the everyday, rather than the “everyday” into art.

Parole chiave

Maurizio Cattelan; Tom Friedman; realism; trompe l’oeil; Post-Digital; Walker Art Center

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DOI: 10.6092/issn.2531-9876/6633


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