[Mankind’s] self-alienation has reached such a degree that it can experience its own destruction as an aesthetic pleasure of the first order.

Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” 1936.

Evan Lobel, owner of Lobel Modern

What do you see as trends in collecting within your area of specialty?

We really focus on unique pieces. Things that require a lot of handwork and a lot of skill—not pieces that have been mass-produced. We also go for very exotic. We have a goatskin table that’s different than anything. It’s different than leather. It’s like 100 times stronger than polyurethane. A nuclear bomb wouldn’t hurt it!

How is this market different from other markets and how will the experience at the show be different than your shop?

I think people want expensive things, exotic things. It’s the same reason why women love Hermès bags. The pieces we will display at the show will be highly edited. We have things in the shop for a varied number of tastes, but the space is more confined at the show and so it will be a different, curated environment.

There is a certain level of fear of a single atomic bomb being smuggled by terrorists out from a country like Pakistan, whose government continues to be destabilized by the GWOT, and whose population has reasons to be pissed at the United States.  However, the likelihood of New York City being destroyed by a nuclear weapon is something people must worry a lot less about these days than they did in 1949, 1962 or 1984.  Certainly the prospect of an all out nuclear war between the US and another nation, given current political conditions, is effectively nil.

Stripped of most if not all of the more immediate and tangible power that nuclear weapons held during the Cold War era, they have been consigned even further into the realm of metaphor than was occupied in the golden days of sci-fi fantasy and numerous cinematic visions of WWIII.  An interesting question might be posed: although they still serve as the final guarantor of state power, if nuclear weapons have been perceptually neutered to a degree – if the prospect of the destruction of civilization within one hour no longer holds a high ranking on the list of human anxieties – what new functions, what new “aesthetic pleasures,” do they give us?

A quick sample garners their use in fashion:

Kitschy Youtube music videos:

Online “Brain Games”:

In addition to the puzzle above, fragmenting the bomb into jigsaw pieces makes an appearance in the work of Rirkrit Tiravanija.  In his 2008 work, titled “Foster, You’re Dead” (named after a Philip K. Dick short story about a man who refuses to buy a bomb shelter), Tiravanija, working collaboratively with a designer named Neil Logan, created 110 boxes of jigsaw puzzles to go along with tables, chairs, fluorescent lighting, some palm plants and a separate room wallpapered with scenes of a beach sunset.  Presumably people sat down and worked (and talked) with friends and strangers to piece together these puzzles depicting scenes of unimaginable violence, while surrounded by a clean environment appointed with some facsimiles of “natural” beauty.

Each puzzle depicts a different nuclear explosion. The power of each is directly proportional to the number of pieces that need to be put together: some puzzles have over 500 pieces, while others have only one. It was such a great way of communicating the power of these explosions, and one which had a resounding impact on the puzzle-player. So. cool.


It appears though that based on images of a few of the puzzles, Tiravanija and Logan designed them so that the smaller the bomb, the more pieces to the puzzle.  The lone hydrogen explosion featured in the DesignBoom link has 35 pieces, while one of the much smaller atomic blasts contains 204 pieces.  The power of each is in inverse proportion to the number of pieces that need to be put together.  Perhaps Tiravanija figured that the bigger the bomb, the less ruminating/relating there needed to be done. So. Cool. Indeed.

I would like to do more research to see if Tiravanija has employed the most current prospective calamity facing mankind as a theme in his art.  As Benjamin would have predicted, it seems to be well mined territory already.