âI set out to recreate Whistlerâs fabled Peacock Room in a state of decadent demolitionÂ â a space collapsing in on itself, heavy with its own excess and tumultuous history. The once-extravagant interior is warped, ruptured, and in the process of being overtaken by natural phenomena: stalactites hang from the mantelpiece, light fixtures morph into crystal-like formations, and moss and barnacles cover the walls. Painted vessels sit broken and scattered, or drip florescent glazes down the latticed shelves. The shimmering central mural melts down the wall onto the floor in a puddle of gold. Â The painting of the reigning âPorcelain Princessâ â depicted in fantastical deformity â oversees the unsettling scene.â
The original Peacock Room â the dining room for the London home of shipping magnate Frederick Leyland â was designed to showcase Leylandâs collection of Asian ceramics.Â When asked to consult on the color scheme for the room, Whistler took bold â if not egregious â liberties while Leyland and his architect were away, and in a fit of enthusiasm painted the entire room â executing his now famous peacocks over the expensive leather wall panels.Â The collector refused to pay Whistlerâs full bill and banned him from the house; in response, Whistler painted an unflattering caricature of his patron titledÂ The Gold Scab: Eruption in Frilthy LucreÂ (The Creditor)Â â now in the collection of the de Young Museum, San Francisco, California. Conflating the words frilly and filthy, Whistler made a jab at Leylandâs own âpeacockingâ as well as his miserliness.
Filthy LucreÂ hints at parallels between the excesses and inequities of the Gilded Age (and the European society it mimicked) and the social and economic disparities of our own time.Â Â ItÂ raises questions about patronage and the relationships between artists, collectors, and institutions.Â Filthy LucreÂ is a reminder of the complexities and contradictions of the artist-patron relationship, as well as a reference to the relationship between art and money. Inspired by Leyland’s collection and that of American industrialist, Charles Freer, who acquired The Peacock Room after Leylandâs death, Waterston has hand-painted 250 ceramic vessels (some found and some created by local ceramic artist Diane Sullivan) for his reinterpretation of the notorious room.
Waterston engaged local stained glass artisan Debra Coombs to create the luminous lanterns for Filthy Lucre.
Two galleries filled with nearly thirty of Waterstonâs paintings and works on paper, accompany the installation, including a selection of studies forÂ Filthy Lucre.
See the installation process as our hard-working crew movesÂ Filthy Lucre into the gallery in the above video, complete with a sample of the haunting voice and cello soundscape from New York rocker trio BETTY, who perform up in our Club B-10 on March 22.
âOne of the most outstanding collaborative projects weâve ever done with an artist here at MASS MoCA.”–Â Richard Criddle, MASS MoCAÂ Director of Art Fabrication,