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  • Writer's pictureVan Weyenbergh Fine Art

Andres Serrano sees Trump Ego with and without.

Updated: Jan 19, 2020

April 11, 2019, it is 5 pm in the Meatpacking District of New York.

A police service filters entries into a building on which floats an unusual sign, in capital letters: " The Game: All Things Trump ". The scene surprises when we know the discord between the city, largely democratic, and the American President! This is the opening of the last installation of Andres Serrano, an American artist known for his polemical works such as Piss Christ (1987), which caused a scandal during his exhibition at the State of Virginia Museum in 1989. The crisis had resulted in the cutting of the budget of National Fund for the Arts ( National Endowment for the Arts or NEA), the latter having partially financed the controversial work. The artist then became one of the key protagonists of historical debate on freedom of artistic expression, entitled "Cultural Wars" ( Culture Wars ), questioning the state intervention in arts funding. Ironically, thirty years later, Donald Trump, unloved by the artists of his day, is now considering eliminating all funding of the NEA by the state. How then to explain that an artist like Andres Serrano dedicates an exhibition space to the character?

"Before being the President of the United States, Donald Trump was already ... Donald Trump. " Thus, Andres Serrano explains what led him to portray one of the most controversial characters in the world today, exactly one year ago. "I wondered what was in everyone's mind, and I realized it was Donald Trump. Andres Serrano then decided to paint the portrait of the American President by gathering, in a large installation, objects associated with the politician and businessman: newspaper covers or caps autographed by him, a collection of symbolic ties, objects bearing the brand of its hotels, a board game in its name. A carefully arranged collection behind museum showcases, which also includes a diploma from Trump University - now missing - and collaborations with various brands like The Sharper Image, Trump Steaks: the best steaks in the world »... More than 1,000 items have been acquired by the artist, mainly on eBay, for around $ 200,000.

The ability of Donald Trump to put his name everywhere is fascinating, as evidenced by the number of objects dedicated by the President.

Even when it comes to unflattering magazine covers, such as this timeline on the cover of Time Magazine, (Trump standing up against a tearful migrant girl, separated from her family on the Mexican border) His signature seems to crush the child's head and, supreme irony, the President does not hesitate to add his campaign slogan: Make America Great Again!

For Andres Serrano, Donald Trump lives according to the adage: "There is no bad publicity", and declines its mark at will like a dog marks its territory. The object acquired at a higher price by Andres Serrano is a vertical sign the word "EGO" in capital letters, which was in the center of a bar of the same name, in a hotel of the President. The panel was placed in the center of the installation, just in front of a large draw of the photo portrait of Donald Trump that Andres Serrano made fifteen years ago.

Andres Serrano met Donald Trump only once, in 2004 , when he was putting together a series of photographs entitled America. This project aimed to paint a portrait of America post 9/11/ 2001 and juxtaposed the photos of many anonymous to those of celebrities. Donald Trump, an accomplished businessman, and star of reality TV, was already an important media figure. If the interaction between the two men is limited to thirty minutes of this photo shoot, Andres Serrano recognizes that the work of collector he has led for a year, since April 7, 2018, has somehow strengthened his connection to the President, and allowed him to better capture the one he considers "the greatest showmansince PT Barnum ", famous circus entrepreneur. Andres Serrano even believes, in the way that Donald Trump affixes his signature on these objects and manages his image, that he is a kind of artist: "a rogue artist or huckster", certainly, but an artist despite everything.

Could this installation be interpreted as a temple dedicated to the President? "Trump represents different things for different people," says Andres Serrano, "and my role is not to give my opinion, but to let people interpret the installation as they please. "The artist likes to cultivate ambiguity: the exhibition is also called" The Game ", referring to the board game Trump , taken from his TV show, The Apprentice , whose slogan sums up the character:" The question is not whether you will win or lose, but whether you will win. Because this portrait of Donald Trump is also that of an America obsessed by the media success and the celebrity, whatever the bases.

"Our society has created the monster," explains Andres Serrano. The media were passionate very early for this colorful character, who masters the art of buzz good or bad, like no one. And the quantity of items on Donald Trump, which are traded on eBay, is itself emblematic of the fascination of society for celebrities, elevated to the rank of idols. The strange collection amassée by Andres Serrano is also for sale, but in its entirety. It is difficult to predict who, from a fan or a detractor, will seek to acquire it. Could the collection finish in one of the properties of the President? "Why not," replies the artist with a mischievous smile, "but I doubt it because there is a price to pay - and Trump is a bit stingy. In the meantime, the visit of this strange trip to the heart of the ego is open to all until 9 June.

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