Anthea Hamilton

Karl Lagerfeld Bean Counter

2012

In Tate Britain

Artist
Anthea Hamilton born 1978
Medium
Black and white inkjet print on paper mounted on fibreboard, acrylic, wood, buckwheat, potatoes and steel
Dimensions
Object: 1110 x 1900 x 598 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 2019
Reference
T15255

Summary

Karl Lagerfeld Bean Counter 2012 is a large floor-based sculpture the central element of which is a perspex cut-out of a reclining man who is wearing a lycra wrestling suit. He is resting on his left elbow with his right arm extended in front of his torso, one leg folded under him and the other outstretched. In front of him, trapped in acrylic, is a pile of buckwheat and in front of that ten Desiree potatoes are laid out. These incongruous elements sit on a low wooden rectangular plinth which is painted white.

The man shown in the cut-out image is the fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld photographed in his youth, looking very different to the highly stylised, white-ponytailed figure we now recognise as Lagerfeld. Hamilton often uses images of male cultural icons in her work, and in particular male cultural icons considered ‘classically handsome’ and who are associated with the fashion, film and music industries. She has spoken about this fascination being based on who decides what is considered worthwhile or beautiful, as well as how such associations are formed and what they preclude. Thus, for example, John Travolta, a straight white man, has become a worldwide symbol for Disco which was a cultural moment intimately connected to queer communities and bodies of colour, a hugely political movement that was co-opted by popular culture. This particular work featured in Hamilton’s first institutional exhibition in Britain, Sorry I’m Late, at Firstsite Gallery, Colchester in 2012 and was included in her exhibition The New Life at Vienna Secession in 2018.

Hamilton is known for her often-humorous sculptures, installations and performances. Her works draw on themes as diverse as pop culture, 1970s disco music, food, lichen, Japanese Kabuki Theatre, architecture, fashion, design and art history (see also Leg Chair (Cigarettes) 2014, Tate T15256). Much of her work focuses on the resolution of the contradictory dynamic between two and three dimensions, combining sculpture with poster and advertising-style images, as seen in Karl Lagerfeld Bean Counter. They are often irreverent and surreal in their final realisation, but are precisely constructed, multi-layered objects that can be read and presented in many different contexts. She has described the process of developing her work, explaining that: ‘My work grew into these collages or assemblages … It was a way of storyboarding ideas, of constructing a narrative through images and materials. I draw from popular culture, art history and my personal life. You can have as much of it as you can manage.’ (Quoted in ‘Interview: Turner Prize Nominee Anthea Hamilton’ Financial Times, 11 November 2016, https://www.ft.com/content/bd4d502e-a4df-11e6-8898-79a99e2a4de6, accessed 30 November 2018.)

Further reading
Anthea Hamilton: Sorry I’m Late, exhibition catalogue, Firstsite, Colchester 2012.
‘Anthea Hamilton’, in Turner Prize 2016, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain, London 2016.

Linsey Young
October 2018

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