Friday, December 3, 2010

Julien Berthier's Shipwrecked Sculpture

Have you heard the one about the sculptor who sits on his shipwrecked sailboat waiting for other boaters to come to his rescue? Only it's not a shipwrecked sailboat, but a sculpture that looks like one? It's not a joke.

Or is it?

Julien Berthier decided to make a sculpture that resembles a sailboat about to sink. As you can see from the image, it's very convincing. According to reports, when he takes his sculpture out for a ride (it is fully seaworthy and he can pilot it) he is the frequent recipient of attempts to rescue him from his distressed situation. As you can imagine.

OK, it's clever. I wonder, though, was it worth the effort? It's kind of like a very expensive and elaborate visual pun, a one-liner. Or is there something more to it that I'm missing? Is this Surrealism's postmodern offspring, something that owes a debt to Magritte? Maybe he should title it "this is not a shipwreck." Below is what it looks like in a gallery setting. Not quite the same effect.


  1. Eddy, have you ever studied architecture? well look at the forms that made up the MAMuseum new building. which I call the QE II. it too is like a ship reck. but when Milwaukee gets finally it's subway system [that the museum is a copy of a Swiss subway train station] then the building will really work for what it was made for. And yet is still is a white cub inside a fancy structure not so good for art exhibitions exactly.

  2. The punny layers of meaning and asethetics aside, I'm put off by the 'boy crying wolf' aspect of this sculpture. If I sincerely rushed to his aid, I might feel badly used - though I'm sure I'd get over it, but with a bad taste in my mouth.
    Colette Odya Smith

  3. That's a valid critique of it! When I heard the story on NPR no mention was made of that kind of reaction from the many people who stopped to "rescue" him. Maybe he doesn't look so desperate that people feel compelled to "rush" to his aid?