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Walk into the nightclub-turned-gallery on 14th Street and you’ll see something wholly unexpected from the blue-blooded Democratic haven called Manhattan: a museum-scale homage to America’s braggadocio-in-chief, Donald Trump.
This project, called The Game: All Things Trump, is the nightmarish creation of the artist Andres Serrano in partnership with the London-based arts initiative a/political and the newly-launched club and cultural space ArtX. For the last few months, the “Piss Christ” artist has been quietly buying up Trump paraphernalia to create this object-based portrait of the world’s most powerful man. Spending close to $200,000 of his own money to underwrite this political funhouse, which, depending on your political tilt, represents a hall of horrors or a victory lap around the president’s last three decades of self-promotion and branded skirt steaks.
Whether or not these dynamics amount to a good exhibition is up for debate (this critic will get back to you next week with an official review) but Serrano’s ploy is nevertheless an important barometer of our appetite for Trump imagery more than two years into his presidency. Is there something to be gained from dipping into the Don’s marketing campaign of kleptocratic egotism?
I cannot answer that question right now, but I can show you the enormous rotating sign from the Trump-owned Taj Mahal’s EGO Lounger, which Serrano makes the centerpiece of his exhibition. I can also show you a crusted sample of the president and Melania Trump’s wedding cake from 2005. It’s a chocolate truffle cake with a single sugar-spun buttercream rose and sprinkles with gold flakes; the dessert was presented as a wedding favor to the nearly 350 guests, a list which included Rudy Giuliani, Heidi Klum, Shaquille O’Neal, Senator Hillary Clinton, and former President Bill Clinton.
This bric-a-brac collection of ephemera, campaign signs, and gag gifts runs the gamut from haunting to horrible. A signed Trump mask sits in a glass box on the first floor, eyelids empty and cheeks puffy-red. At some point, the president signed his effigy, leaving his devilish signature on the ghoul’s left jowl.
Triggering an ancestral fear of Nazis are the many mannequins that Serrano has amassed in the main gallery. He’s outfitted these wraiths in Taj Mahal uniforms, “Make America Great Again” hats, and Trump socks. They stand in front of two massive banners for Harrah’s Trump Plaza that flank a portrait of their caesar, photographed by Serrano for his 2004 America series.
But if you thought this was all about Trump, then you would be wrong. Supporting cast members from this umpteenth season of The Apprentice: President Edition are present and accounted for. The organizers are fond of presenting images of Hillary Clinton side-by-side with Donald Trump. They’ve even include a fake dollar bill of the former Secretary of State locked behind bars — and signed by her presidential competitor. Trump’s former wife Marla Maples makes an appearance, as do Ivanka Trump and Roseanne Barr.
Missing from the exhibition is Trumps’s birth certificate, moral compass, and temper. But somehow, Serrano has acquired a signed diploma from Trump University — not that it’s worth anything.
The Game: All Things Trump continues at ArtX (409 West 14th Street, Meatpacking District, Manhattan). The exhibition, which runs through June 9, is curated by Andres Serrano and organized by Becky Haghpan-Shirwan and Sylwia Serafinowicz of a/political.