Hysterical Re-enactors

Eleanor H. Gustafson Art, Books

Off the Walls: Inspired Re-Creations of Iconic Artworks (Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2020)

Among the few uplifting results of the Covid-19 pandemic so far has been the creative ways museums have devised to engage people remotely— from online tours and talks to such social media challenges as #curatorbattle, which Glenn Adamson wrote about in our July- August issue. Equally fun, on Instagram, @tussenkunstenquarantaine (Dutch for “between art and quarantine”) urged followers to re-create famous works of art using just items found at home. It was so successful that various museums adopted the idea, including the Getty in California. Happily, the Getty was so delighted with its results that it has decided to publish a book, Off the Walls, to be released in the US on September 22, meaning that you don’t have to be in the least bit technologically savvy to enjoy the fun!

The book is divided into several sections: “Home, Sweet Home” (domestic imagery); “Life Holds Still” (still-lifes); “Strike a Pose” (portraiture); “Creature Comfort” (pets); “Culinary Arts” (food and cooking); “High Drama” (dramatic, emotional imagery); and “Child’s Play” (toys and children). Rachel Barth, the project editor, says: “We tried to include both fun re-creations and images that specifically referenced the pandemic— by highlighting masks or sanitizing spray, for example. One of my favorites shows a couple re-creating Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam while wearing masks and gloves and social distancing.”

She adds, “I learned a lot of pets’ names in the process of making the book—among them, Cosette, a chinchilla posed as a Degas ballerina, a dog named Darkwater stretched out as the subject of Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World, and Bernadette, one of several dogs impersonating Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring. We definitely saw the most re-creations of Girl with a Pearl Earring.” Perhaps not surprisingly given the pandemic, there were also a good number of re-creations of Munch’s The Scream.