Butt of the joke: Anthea Hamilton at New York’s SculptureCenter

Butt of the joke: Anthea Hamilton at New York’s SculptureCenter

In 1972, when he was working on a commission for a Manhattan building, the Italian designer Gaetano Pesce came up with a peculiar strategy for the building’s front door. Rather than sending people through those garden-variety entryways – hinged, revolving, sliding doors – he would have people walk through the spread legs (and under the rounded bum) of a male form.

The project, which never got built, became something of a designer’s parlour game: whose derrière did Pesce put up there? It wasn’t, after all, just Pesce working from his imagination. He used a figure model to get the form. Tight-lipped about confirming the model’s identity, he has, over the years, conceded this much: it was a famous architect – someone we would all know.

Thanks to the efforts of art collector and patron Valeria Napoleone, who recently launched her own initiative, Valeria Napoleone XX, dedicated to equalising the gender imbalances in representing art, the butt is now a reality. The piece is the first sponsored commission for the Sculpture Center and marks the start of a series of ’Valeria Napoeleone XX Sculpture Centre’ commissions that will be produced for the institution every 12-18 months.

As an homage to that project, the London-based sculptor Anthea Hamilton made Project for door (After Gaetano Pesce), as part of her solo exhibition at New York’s SculptureCenter, ‘Lichen! Libido! Chastity!’. The nearly 10-metre-high work builds what Pesce had only imagined: a man’s backside, hands clutching each half of his gluteus maximus, set into a brick wall. The similarities don’t end there. Picking up cues from Pesce’s approach, Hamilton chose her model carefully, based not only on his anatomy, but also on his professional circumstances. For her model, Hamilton chose a well-known graphic designer, 3-D scanning his backside. Like Pesce, she has revealed little of her source, save for his profession and that he’s in his mid-to late-thirties and often works with contemporary artists.

Even though mum’s the word on the subject, it’s bound to get people wondering – and maybe a little piqued – at their next graphics meeting. Where have I seen you before?  


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