They Shouldn’t Touch
tue-sun 13h-17h (mon closed)
Material: Pencil on tracing paper
Paul McCarthy likes to juxtapose and confront childhood innocence and adult perversion. The Guggenheim Museum owns a famous sculpture by the artist entitled Michael Jackson (Fucked Up) (2001). This piece reveals McCarthy’s ongoing engagement with popular culture as well as art-historical narratives. The sculpture is one of a series of modified ‘copies’ created by McCarthy and inspired by Jeff Koons’ iconic sculpture, Michael Jackson and Bubbles (1988). Koons’ work is a flawless porcelain depiction of the pop superstar and his simian sidekick. It can be seen as a celebration of fame and the highly stylized mechanisms used to generate such popularity.
McCarthy’s first version, made in 1999, presented a mutant portrait with cartoonish, large heads and feet. In the more recent Guggenheim version, the proportions have deliberately been distorted even more, and the features have been more abstracted.
As opposed to Koons’ kitsch figurine, McCarthy’s sculpture suggests the darker connotations that come with Jackson’s fame, namely, the fact that the pop star was suspected of child abuse and paedophilia. The pop star, one of our culture’s prime examples of a puer aeturnus or a modern-day Peter Pan, created his own Neverland as a place where he could reclaim his childhood. The preparatory sketches of the work Michael Jackson (Fucked up) belong to a private Belgian collection and are part of the exhibition PLAY Kortrijk.
About the artist