The art world’s favorite dirty joke of 2014 — Paul McCarthy’s suggestive “Tree” inflatable that caused Paris’s prudes to perk up back in October — is coming home for the holidays. The artist Ryan Humphrey has turned the rotund and risqué sculpture into a charming topper for your Christmas tree.
Available in McCarthy’s original green as well as blue, red, black, and gold, the small-scale trees are a steal at just $35 apiece — though the price of “Tree” remains unknown, another giant McCarthy inflatable, “Balloon Dog,” sold for $950,000 following its star turn at Frieze New York in 2013. Each 10.5-inch-tall topper is screen printed on birch plywood and, per Humphrey’s Etsy listing, comes with “two strips of Velcro attached to the back for easy mounting (no pun intended).”
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Benjamin Sutton: What gave you the idea to turn McCarthy’s sculpture into a Christmas tree topper?
Ryan Humphrey: I actually was commissioned to make the first two as wedding presents for an art collector a little over a year ago just as objects. I made several out of 1/2″ material and turned some into ornaments, and have had some sitting around, and thought they were the perfect tree topper, so I made some out of 1/4″ material and expanded the colors to green after Mr. McCarthy’s tree and silver and gold for Xmas.
BS: Did you base your work on images of McCarthy’s sculptures, or on an actual butt plug? Or is it a hybrid of multiple plug and plug-like objects?
RH: I went to the sex toy store on Bleecker Street and even enlisted one of the employees to give me her opinion on which one was the most iconic. I literally took a snapshot of it with my phone and ran it through Photoshop and had a screen made.
BS: What did you think of the controversy over McCarthy’s “Tree” sculpture? Were you in favor of keeping it in place, or were you happy when they took it down?
RH: I think a butt plug is just about as funny and dumb as an object as you can get. I love his toy-like sculptures and I think it was a great public work, and the scale and color made it even more interesting. It is unfortunate that it was taken down. However, anytime you can get a French guy to take a swing at you, you know you have done your job well.