Tom Sachs Bats Above Average for Aspen’s artCRUSH

When the artists, tony art supporters, and assorted fresh-air-inclined members of the press playing hooky from work out east (cough, Modern Painters executive editor Dan Kunitz, cough) show up at the Aspen Art Museum‘s artCRUSH auction this Friday, they might find the wares going on the block a little batty. Well, at least one ware: for his contribution to the charitable cause, New York artist Tom Sachs has offered up a cozy, aesthetically pleasing residence for some 300 little brown bats. The work, an outdoor sculpture titled “Bathaus,” is painted black and features a yellow Batman insignia over the text “Sleeping Bats, Do Not Disturb.”

Sachs says the sculpture evolved out of work he’s been doing with the Institute for Bat Conservation in Cranbrook, Michigan, an environmental group that provides the shelters for people hoping to give a little love back to mother nature while simultaneously reducing insect populations in their neighborhood, since bats are voracious bug-eaters. Each shelter is painted cooling shades of grey, black, or dark brown, depending on the climate where they’re installed, and they’re only about the size of an old-timey mailbox. “They don’t have to be very big because they like to smush up against each other to stay warm,” Sachs told IN THE AIR. “It’s all to create a warm daytime temperature for when they’re sleeping.”

Sheltering the little brown bats is only the latest environmental cause pursued by Sachs, who has also worked on projects to protect pelicans and other animals. He hopes that whoever buys the “Bathaus,” valued at $18,000, will install it high on their home so that it can be used, rather than just keep it inside as an auction trophy. To ensure this, Sachs is offering to install the piece himself. As for any risk that the wealthy matrons attending the artCRUSH may be turned off by the bats’s ick factor — despite the fact that “they never attack people and they rarely have rabies, so that’s a myth,” according to the artist — he takes a practical view: “I know that mosquitoes like to eat wealthy matrons as much as they like to eat you and me, so I think they’ll figure it out eventually one way or another.”

Tom Sachs's "Bathaus"