Marsden, a regal-looking Maine Coons cat named after Mainer artist Marsden Hartley, in Anthony Caro's "Case Study" (2011) (all photos courtesy Karen Wilkin)

Marsden, a regal-looking Maine Coon cat named after Mainer artist Marsden Hartley, in Anthony Caro’s “Case Study” (2011) (all photos by Donald Clinton)

We’re instinctively taught not to touch the art by stern museum guards and gallery attendants that drill into us all the idea that art is untouchable, literally. So imagine my surprise when I visited the home of New York critic and curator Karen Wilkin and saw her cats using her sculpture collection as funky cat houses.


“All of our cats have had relationships with the sculpture we live with,” she told me. “I think they realize that we’re very interested in sculpture so they should be, too. Marsden’s predecessor, a splendid Maine Coon named Rumford, used to thread in and out of a [Anthony] Caro bronze that’s near our front door, as a greeting. Rumford’s sister, Augusta used to balance on the linear Caro, ‘Table Piece Z-25.’ And everyone, past and present, had liked to play inside a low André Fauteux that makes an enclosure. Marsden likes to circumnavigate the [André] Fauteux, balancing on the narrow part of the I-beams, but we’ve never managed to photograph that.”

Beatrix in Caro's "Table Piece, Z" (1980)

Beatrix, also a Maine Coon, is named after the celebrated Maine landscape architect Beatrix Farrand and snuggles up to Caro’s “Table Piece Z-25” (1980)

Do you think the sculptor minds your cats using it like a cat bed, I ask. “I sent Tony [Caro] photos of Marsden in the newest addition to our Caro collection, ‘Case Study,’ and he wrote back ‘I’m glad your pussycat has found a happy home in my sculpture,’” Wilkin explained. “The Caros, although presently cat-less, are sympathetic to the species.”

The cat critics have it, metal modern sculptures are purr-fect.

Marsden and Beatrix in a work by Fauteux.

Marsden and Beatrix with their beloved work by André Fauteux.

Beatrix with a work by James Wolfe (left) and another favorite spot in Caro's "Tabel Piece Z-60"

Beatrix with a work by Jilaine Jones (left) and another favorite spot in yet another beloved sculpture, this one by James Wolfe (right).

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic.