Parents of the Judd-Climbing Kid Speak

by Jillian Steinhauer on January 31, 2014

@TheodoreArt’s photo of the kid climbing a Judd. The “London Evening Standard” reveals that the adults pictured are not her parents, but rather her aunt and uncle.

Remember the kid who climbed on the Donald Judd sculpture at the Tate Modern? Well, her parents have taken to the London Evening Standard to set the record straight. They want the world to know that their daughter, Sissi Belle, was only on the sculpture for a matter of seconds and meant no harm — and that the nine-year-old is “anti-establishment” anyway.

The girl’s parents are Kait Bolongaro and Stuart Trevor, founders of the AllSaints fashion label, although it was actually her aunt and uncle who were watching her in the museum when the faux pas occurred. In their interview with the Standard — which includes, no joke, a photo of the family pointing at little Sissi — Bolongaro and Trevor acknowledge their daughter’s mistake but suggest that it was also unavoidable, given how attractive the Judd piece is:

“It’s not right, but they were just interested. Their only crime was to be seduced by a ladder of jewel-coloured shelving. Sissi has always been anti-establishment but she would never hurt anybody.”

I mean, let’s be honest here: who hasn’t fought the urge to climb all over a “jewel-colored” Judd?

Anyway, this is apparently sort of a thing that the children do, this climbing statues business. Here are some of their conquests:

“There are some beautiful statues that they have climbed, the Henry Moore at Liverpool Street, ones along the South Bank where they are interactive and the Diana Memorial.”

But don’t worry! The kids are morally sound.

“Our children have been to all the museums and all the galleries in London and abroad. They have been all around the world and are extremely intelligent and educated and just happened to slide in the bottom of what looks like a row of shelves.

“They were on it for a matter of seconds, they weren’t climbing all over it.

“Our children are not horrible, they are the most cute and intelligent girls at the top of their class in school and they are obsessed with art. They have the upmost respect.”

You know, I sympathize with Sissi Belle, that anti-establishment nine-year-old. What with museums looking ever more like stores and stores looking ever more like museums these days, it can be difficult to know exactly where you are.

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  • I’m not sure they understand that they’re doing a poor job parenting. Justifying this sort of behavior because ‘we’ve done it before in other places,’ doesn’t acknowledge that a museum is a) not one of those places b) a vanguard for preserving history/art/culture.

    ‘Sorry’ would have been much better.

  • Daniel Fleming

    I think the majority of criticism was aimed at the guardians for not keep the kids under control…not the children for being “bad kids”. Miss the point much?

  • [email protected]

    Extremely educated and intelligent at only 9 years of age — they are absolute phenoms.

  • Kathy Stockman

    Of course this is bound to happen with the discussion about art and art museums revolves around not the importance of learning about art, but about being accessible.

  • mikemazzla

    She certainly didnt help their cause with that ridiculous interview now did she

  • mrpillis

    This is a great example of the rationalizing syndrome I and many people have grown up in, and it’s dangerous- I’m really sad to hear that there was no apology and instead an empty defense.

    • Jane Ludo

      Yep sorry seems to be the hardest word once again

  • Christina Franco-Long

    It’s Just a matter of making sure that family members transfer the idea to children that certain things are not meant to be climbed on. There should be no focus on the child at all. Kids no matter what kind will want to do this. The aunt and uncle simply needed to communicate with the child and that is all. Since no harm was done, why is this an issue? #criticalthinking

  • Jane Ludo

    Nobody should blame the 9-year old who I am sure is a delight…. It is the adults involved whether those minding her at the museum or whoever that should just apologize and not make excuses/ be rude, as they allegedly did to Stephanie @TheodoreArt when this happened as she documented…… All they had to do was accept they had lost control of the kid for a minute… Kids do have a way of escaping one’s control rather mysteriously but the mistake here was to try to make excuses as the parents are doing now going to the papers, in my opinion…

  • gwvanderleun

    This was a much much better thing, and a much deeper critique of the somnambulant and snore inducing qualities of all of Judd’s work, before the parents felt the need to open their god.

  • NoLions

    Is a group photo of the rest of the family clustered around pointing like a lynch mob going to help a small girl on her passage through childhood? Nice call Mum & Dad, a life lesson in blame culture for young kids right there.

  • samthor

    welp, i’m convinced, hipster parents are the worst thing yet.

  • Pugilist Press

    Early stages of affluenza?

  • M Woodlee

    Best thing to happen in a museum. I believe that sculpture is interactive and should be touched and experienced by the viewers. This little kid is awesome. The ones saying this is bad parrenting need not have kids because they would never experence a thing in there life if they were raised by you.

    • higgs merino

      Those graduates from The Lil’ Tony Shafrazi School of Wonderment.

  • mcart

    As an artist, you’ll know when my work is “interactive,” until then, keep your gene pool off my hard work thanks very much. Anyone want to go touch everything with sticky fingers at an All Saints shop? Just kidding!

    • Who’s kidding. That’s a great idea.

      • Michael Savage

        They now own a different fashion retailer, Bolognaro Trevor. A Twitter flash mob is being assembled to go be ‘anti-establishment’ there.

        • mcart

          You guys are great! Not sure we have Bolgnaro Trever stateside. I’ll have to check…

  • Pierre Gustav

    Um, the kid is NINE!? Oh wow, I thought maybe 4 or 5. Never mind. (How in the heck do you become “anti-establishment” at 9, anyway? As the parent of a daughter myself, I’d say, “Nice try. I’m “establishment” for now. You can become “anti-” when you’re older and you earn it.”)

  • lafemmeartiste

    No rationalization justifies lack in personal standards. Civic responsibility is not fashion.

  • Skip Van Cel


    • higgs merino

      What would Judd do.

  • This is premeditated hooliganism performed by an organized group of people motivated by religious hatred or hostility.

  • Ergo Sum

    I was anti-establishment when I was nine, too. I was also anti-hair and
    tooth brushing, anti-green vegetable eating, anti-bedtime, and
    anti-cleaning. Yet somehow, my parents kept me from climbing on things,
    living in a constant hair knot with no teeth, dying from vitamin
    deficiency, turning into a sleepless monster (most of the time). What this child will be at 20 is frightening, much like her parents.

  • Severine7

    Viva Sissi Belle! Can this erudite jet-setter be a new columnist for Hyperallergic?

  • Kasie

    Purposely raising “anti-establishment” kids… Seems like a great idea. I would love to see a follow up interview with these parents in 10 years.

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