In this simulation of the horror of a fun fair ghost train, allusions to director John Waters' cult actress Divine (Pink Flamingos) and iconoclastic artist Paul McCarthy's The Painter are mixed in with the traditional bats, skeletons and Frankenstein's monster. Following a winding path to the accompaniment of sound and lighting effects, The House of Horrors goes to the heart of an age – ours – dominated by spectacle and anti-intellectualism, as well as by widespread violence, hatred and the obscenity of puritanism. The upshot is a life-size installation that only appears to be pure entertainment, even as it proclaims its exhilarating side.
Here the museum is paying tribute to Sturtevant with a year-long presentation of a work that is monumental not only in size – some 300 square metres in all – but also in critical terms. Donated by the artist and her dealer, Thaddaeus Ropac, in 2013, The House of Horrors has been given its own exclusive space as one of the flagship works at the Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris. Fifteen years ahead of the Appropriationists and the postmodernism of the 1980s, Sturtevant (1924-2014) began reproducing the work of other artists including Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Marcel Duchamp, Joseph Beuys, Frank Stella and Felix Gonzalez-Torres – and this before they had been welcomed into the art history canon. In the videos of the last twenty years of her career she rigorously pursued her exposure of what she had been quick to sense as the era of "simulacra", together with the excesses of the cybernetic age.
Sturtevant contributed to numerous exhibitions in such leading international art exhibitions as MoMA New York (2014), and MOCA Los Angeles and MADRE Naples (2015). She was awarded the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale in 2011, and in 2013 received the Kurt Schwitters Prize for The House of Horrors, which, to mark the occasion, was lent to the Sprengel Museum in Hanover from September 2013 to February 2014.
The House of Horrors
« The House of Horrors, Sturtevant », au Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris/ARC, 2015 Courtesy Estate Sturtevant, Paris et Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris–Salzburg. © Pierre Antoine