Credit: John Mireles
Exhibition showcases 1,000 Trump objects, from colognes to steaks
For about a year now, artist and photographer Andres Serrano has been preparing for a museum-styled multi-media installation, "The Game: All Things Trump," as an apt reflection of an unusual business icon who became President.
Serrano says the exhibition is a portrait of US President Donald Trump that features more than 1,000 objects he purchased mostly from eBay, at a cost of nearly $200,000. A 10-foot high, rotating "Ego" sign in bold letters from Taj Mahal's Ego Lounge sits in the center of the first floor of a former nightclub in Manhattan's Meatpacking District where the exhibit is on display.
Serrano only met Trump once when he photographed him in 2004 for his "America" series, which was comprised of more than 100 portraits of people from various professions and backgrounds. A large print of the portrait is the only one of Serrano's own works in the show.
"I've always said that my work is very basic. It's about life, death, religion, sex, race, and everything that people think about. So what is it now that occupies everyone's thoughts? It's Donald Trump," Serrano said.
Thirty years ago, Serrano's infamous "P**s Christ" (1987) infuriated conservatives, drawing national attention surrounding the culture wars over government funding of art.
Now, Serrano is partnering with "a/political," an arts initiative based in London whose mission is to support artists producing socially engaged work, and he is not shying away from making art out of controversial subject matter.
"There are a lot of things that concern me about this administration," Serrano said. "In a way, I can understand what happened. It seems like Donald Trump had a lot of cards in his favor, just being the antithesis to Barack Obama. I see his election as a backlash to Barack Obama's presidency."
Some of the most fascinating items Serrano collected are magazine and tabloid covers featuring Trump over the past three decades, including high-profile autographed covers that were critical of him. An autographed copy of Esquire, with a headline that reads: "Hater-in-Chief" might inspire a laugh but by signing these covers, Trump suggests he's bigger than the opinions of his critics and American voters. Ironically, the same ideals that many people once admired about Trump are the same ones that many now hate.
Workbooks and a diploma from Trump University that once fueled aspiring entrepreneurs' capitalist dreams are also on display. Merchandise from his numerous other business ventures including Trump Shuttle, Trump Steaks, Trump Casinos, colognes, and a talking Trump doll from "The Apprentice" account for an astonishing number of products in the exhibit that feature the Trump name. It almost seems like overkill, but that may be part of Serrano's point.
A Monopoly-like game, "Trump: The Game," carries a tagline that reads: "It's not whether you win or lose...It's whether you win." The display cases are loaded with material, including a letter from former Mexican President Vicente Fox. There's also a tie collection and his "Make America Great Again" hats.
Most people by now have formed their own opinions either for or against Trump, but Serrano seems uninterested in inserting himself into the debate. He is, however, concerned about support for arts funding and where the administration is headed.
Is the exhibition a celebration of Trump or a criticism of him? That interpretation, Serrano leaves to the viewers.
"I've treated all these objects like precious objects and treated them like art," Serrano said.