Care for a little à la mode with your pie, Mr. Brant? Or perhaps we can top it with a little whipped cream?
Art journalists could be forgiven the culinary quips in reporting that Peter M. Brant recently bought Claes Oldenburg’s “Four Pies in a Glass Case” (1961, mixed media) for more than $1 million from the Paula Cooper Gallery in Manhattan. The work might more appropriately be called “Four Slices of Pie in a Glass Case.” At about $250,000 a slice, the pieces certainly look luscious enough, conjuring the texture of chocolate cream pie and the palette of red velvet cake. (Don’t get your hopes up: The work is made of muslin soaked in plaster over chicken wire, painted with enamel. But then chocolate cream pie wouldn’t hold up very well now, would it?)
Brant is better known in these pages as the founder of Greenwich Polo Club, whose season is in full swing, and the patron of its White Birch Team. But he is also a serious art collector, always ready to share that passion with others. (On Father’s Day, The Brant Foundation Art Study Center invited children attending a polo match to take inspiration from the center’s Jonathan Horowitz exhibit to create presidential-style portraits of their fathers or male role models.)
Well-known for his sculptures of everyday objects, Oldenburg is no stranger to food as muse. His “Giant BLT (Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato Sandwich)” (1963), part of the Whitney Museum of American Art collection; his oversized “Floor Burger,” among the food works in The Museum of Modern Art’s 2013 retrospective; and his “Dropped Cone” (2001), which tops a shopping center in Cologne, Germany’s Neumarkt area all speak to the sculptor’s love of simplicity and a desire to venture beyond artistic convention.
At the same time, curators have noted, these works — often made of soft materials — convey contemporary art’s complex fascination with mimicking one medium or discipline with another.
Oldenburg may be using muslin, plaster, chicken wire and enamel, but he knows how to make us hungry.
The Paula Cooper Gallery — actually two galleries on 21st Street in Manhattan — began life in 1968 as the first art gallery in SoHo. The gallery hosts performances as well as exhibits and was for years well-known for its New Year’s Eve reading of James Joyce’s “Finnegan’s Wake” and Gertrude Stein’s “The Making of Americans.” On view through July 15 at the 521 W. 21st St. gallery, works by multimedia artist Bruce Conner. For more, call 212-255-1105 or visit paulacoopergallery.com.