The Nasher Museum of Art has made its first purchase--a sculpture by New York-based artist Petah Coyne. The newly purchased work, Untitled #1111 (Little Ed's Daughter Margaret), is an eleven-foot assemblage of tree branches, feathers, ribbon, thread, tassels, and hundreds of silk flowers dipped in a specially formulated midnight-blue wax. The underlying figure is a cast-fiberglass statue with a hidden mechanism programmed to cause its eyes to well up with "tears" twice a day, at random times.
The museum chose the sculpture after Coyne lent a similar work, Untitled #1165 (Paris Blue), for display in one of the museum's inaugural exhibitions.
The sculpture includes remnants of a couture gown specially made for the figure by a dressmaker, two large stuffed fighting birds, and empty bird skins. The artist also incorporated a braid of human hair given to her by an art collector. The braid, according to Coyne, belonged to the collector's mother, a Victorian woman named Margaret who was a musician and early feminist and who died when the collector was a child.
After a visitor looks long and hard at the piece, buried elements within the sculpture emerge, Coyne says. "However much time you spend, that's what you'll see. So it can be just an elaborate, beautiful thing, which is all that many people see, but I prefer it to have this deeper, darker, sometimes even humorous dialogue with people."
Coyne's piece is not only the Nasher's first major purchase of internationally significant art but also fits within the museum's declared focus on collecting modern and contemporary art. The new piece, on display at the KIASMA Museum in Helsinki, Finland, through August 27, may be viewed at the Nasher beginning this fall.
Nasher Collects a Coyne
March 31, 2006