Sotheby’s Stages a Wicked Divine Comedy


Taking on the role of a gallery, auction house giant Sotheby’s presents Divine Comedy, a lively exhibition of art from olden days to contemporary times at its New York outpost. None of the works on view, including major pieces by Jeff Koons, Damian Hirst, Takashi Murakami, and Andres Serrano will be auctioned, but many of them are privately for sale. Using Dante’s epic poem as a point of departure for visual portrayals of Purgatory, Heaven, and Hell, the exhibition gathers together top-notch pieces by some of today’s most in-demand artists.

Organized by Sotheby’s chairman Lisa Dennison, who mastered the skill of curating in her 29-year career at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, Divine Comedy opens with Martin Kippenberger’s sculpture of a crucified frog — a work that’s been condemned by Pope Benedict XVI. The comical character, flaunting a beer mug in his right hand, also graces the cover of the collectible exhibition catalogue, which has silvered edges and a modern-day interpretation of Dante’s allegory by James Frey.

Other wicked delights in the show, which runs through October 19, include Maurizio Cattelan‘s kneeling statue of Adolf Hitler occupying the body of a 12-year-old boy, Richard Prince’s pulp-novel portrait of a bloodied school nurse, Jake & Dinos Chapman’s sculpture of genetically altered young girls in black sneakers, and Tom Sachs’ wood-burning of a fox caning a rabbit.

On the saintly side, we get Andy Warhol’s silkscreen canvas of an advertisement for a $9.98 Jesus relic, a pair of polychrome wood cherubs by Koons, David LaChapelle‘s staged portrayal of Michael Jackson as a demon-slaying martyr, George Condo’s grotesque vision of God, and Will Cotton‘s angelic depiction of a femme fatale resting on a cotton-candy cloud and wearing a cupcake crown.

Meanwhile, Rob Pruitt takes over Sotheby’s street windows with his Holy Crap series, a display of photographs of church signs across America. Presented by Art Production Fund in conjunction with Sotheby’s, the installation points out the ridiculous nature of some religious messages, such as the sign outside Holy Redeemer St. Francis Xavier Church that reads, “Midnight Mass and Toga Party B.Y.O.B.J. (Bring Your Own Baby Jesus),” and the one for the Honest Church of Christ that ironically beckons, “Come Suffer with Us.”

Click through below for a gallery of images.

Martin Kippenberger, Zuerst die Füße (Feet First), 1990. Carved wood, motor-car lacquer, steel nails. Approx. 130 x 100 x 22 cm

Takashi Murakami, I’ve Left My Love Far Behind. Their Smell, Every Memento…, 2010. Acrylic on canvas, mounted to aluminum frames, 55 by 39 inches (139.7 by 99.1 cm.), Private Collection

George Condo, God, 2007. Oil on canvas, 92 x 78 in. (233.7 x 198.1 cm), Private Collection, New York

Tom Sachs, Hours of Devotion, 2008. Pyrography and gold leaf on wood, 49 by 47 by 5 1/4 inches (124.5 by 119.4 by 13.3 cm.), Courtesy Sperone Westwater, New York

Keith Haring, Untitled (May 29, 1984), 1984. Acrylic on canvas, 94 x 94 in. (238.8 x 238.8 cm), Private Collection

Jake & Dinos Chapman, Zygotic Acceleration, Biogenetic, De-Subliminated Libidinal Model, 1995. Fiberglass, resin, paint, wigs and shoes, 58 7/8 by 70 5/8 by 54 7/8 inches (149.5 by 179.4 by 190 cm.). Collection of Frank Gallipoli

Andres Serrano, Piss Christ, 1987. Cibachrome print, 40 by 30 inches (101.6 by 76.2 cm.). Courtesy Locksley Shea Gallery

Damien Hirst, Sanctimony, 2007. Butterflies and household gloss paint on canvas, Diameter: 106 in. (269 cm), frame depth: 5 in. (13 cm), Private Collection

Richard Prince, School Nurse, 2005. Inkjet print and acrylic on canvas, 70 by 49 inches (177.8 by 124.5 cm). Collection Glenn and Amanda Fuhrman, New York, Courtesy The Flag Art Foundation

Maurizio Cattelan, Him, n.d. Wax, garment and polyester resin, 39 3/4 by 16 1/4 by 20 3/4 in. (101 by 41 by 53 cm.), Private Collection, New York

Andy Warhol, Christ $ 9.98, Positive, Circa 1985-86. Synthetic polymer paint and silkscreen ink on canvas, 80 by 72 inches (203.2 by 182.9 cm.), Hall Collection

Will Cotton, Beatrice, 2010. Oil on linen, 84 by 72 inches (213.36 by 182.88 cm). Courtesy Mary Boone Gallery, New York

Mike Kelley, Double Figure (Hairy), 1990. Found Stuffed Animals, 26 by 15 by 7 inches (66 by 38.1 by 17.8 cm.), Private Collection