Got Your Goat? Paul McCarthy’s Bestiality Sculpture Breaks Down at the New Museum


Sunday may have been the last day to see the New Museum‘s excellent historical show “NYC 1993: Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star” in its entirety — though its two strongest floors, three and four, remain open through June 2 — but one of its most popular works, Paul McCarthy‘s “Cultural Gothic” (1992, above), had already been decommissioned. When I asked a nearby guard why the sculpture was unplugged and its trademark thrusting stilled, he explained that the sculpture’s motor had broken down two weeks earlier.

The sculpture consists of a satiric take on Grant Wood‘s “American Gothic,” with a seemingly wholesome father-son scene made creepy and gross by the latter’s apparent act of bestiality with a goat, under daddy’s tutelage. But on Sunday the work was static, is unpleasant, pneumatic, pumping action frozen. The museum guard said that the sculpture needed a new motor, but because McCarthy has been in Europe he wasn’t able to fix it.

“After 20 years,” the guard joked, “the goat probably needed a break.”

For a taste of “Cultural Gothic” in action, here’s a clip:

— Benjamin Sutton

(Image: “NYC 1993: Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star” installation view. Photo by Benoit Pailley)