Could Emma Sulkowicz's Mattress End Up In A Museum? Vulture Asked Art Critics To Weigh In
With one final hoist across her commencement ceremony stage, Emma Sulkowicz's senior thesis project Mattress Performance (Carry That Weight) is complete, thanks in part to a fitting snub from Columbia University president Lee Bollinger. And although Vulture reports that she's going incognito for the summer, starting with fleeing the city and heading to Laguna Beach for a little while, Emma doesn't plan on forgetting about the art object any time soon.
She told the New York Times, "If some sort of museum wants to buy it, then I’m open to that. But I’m not going to just throw it away."
In addition to the 50-pound twin mattress she carried on campus every day of her senior year for nine months, Emma says she'd like to display a few other objects as part of the piece, were it to become a museum exhibition. These include the plastic bed-wetting sheets she used to protect the mattress on rainy days, a recreation of the "Rules of Engagement" for the performance piece, which she wrote on the wall of her studio, and the 59,000-word diary she kept cataloguing her daily interactions and observations while carrying the mattress.
While she isn't in talks as of yet to display the piece, Vulture asked New York City art curators about Mattress Performance's museum potential.
"I can definitely imagine it having a future," Catherine Morris, curator of Brooklyn Museum's Sackler Center for Feminist Art, told Vulture. "If she was a standard painting student at Columbia who had gotten some small percentage of the attention she’s gotten, you can bet she would have her first show up by now."
A curator of political art at MoMA echoed sentiments underscoring the importance of immediacy in political works of art, intimating that the mattress could become a "relic," rather than an art object, over time.
And a curator of performance at the Whitney Museum pointed out that it's important to keep this piece in perspective as being a highly visible work produced very early on in an artist's career — technically student work. Just as important as the piece itself is, it will begin to take on new meaning within the narrative arc of Emma Sulkowicz's life as an artist.
You can read more about the art world's thoughts on the future of her performance piece here.
Image: Andrew Burton/Getty Images