Huge Paul McCarthy installation seeks forever home

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Emblematic of Paul McCarthy’s practice of subversive, abject spectacle, WS White Snow (2013) is a grotesque reinterpretation of a Disney fairytale. It comprises an 8,800 sq. ft artificial forest, a three-quarter-scale replica of the artist’s childhood home and a seven-hour multi-channel video of the most debauched house party imaginable.

Through 19 February, the non-profit Los Angeles Nomadic Division (LAND) is hosting viewings of WS White Snow in the artist’s studio, marking the first public presentation of the work since its debut at New York’s Park Avenue Armory in 2013. The presentation is part of a larger initiative to “garner support for permanent preservation of the work”, which is in danger of being dismantled and destroyed, says Mara McCarthy, the artist’s daughter and co-owner of his gallery, The Box.

Installation view, Paul McCarthy & Damon McCarthy. WS White Snow, McCarthy Studio, Los Angeles, California, 2023 © Paul McCarthy. Courtesy the artist, LAND, The Box and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Keith Lubow

While the artist had intended to make new works with the WS set, those unrealised plans have made maintenance of the enormous work increasingly untenable. Last November, Mara McCarthy, the artist’s daughter and co-owner of his gallery, The Box, and the gallery’s principal, Robert Zin Stark, began an outreach campaign among Los Angeles institutions to ensure the preservation of the work, which she considers definitive of her father’s practice. That outreach resulted in a partnership with LAND to exhibit the work during Frieze as a means of attracting visibility and support.

“In the best-case scenario, we’ll raise the financial support and institutional partnership to preserve the work,” Mara says. “The worst case scenario is that basically we’re giving it a really fantastic burial party.”

Installation view, Paul McCarthy & Damon McCarthy. WS White Snow, McCarthy Studio, Los Angeles, California, 2023 © Paul McCarthy. Courtesy the artist, LAND, The Box and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Keith Lubow

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