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Paul Thek

Untitled

1966

Paul Thek, Untitled, 1966. Wax, plexiglass, Formica and melamine laminate, and rhodium-plated bronze, 14 × 15 1/16 × 7 1/2 in. (35.6 × 38.3 × 19.1 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase with funds from the Painting and Sculpture Committee  93.14
The object inside this box may look like a piece of glistening, raw meat, but the meat is not real—it is made of wax and paint. This sculpture is part of a group of works that Paul Thek made in the 1960s. They have come to be known as the “meat pieces” or Technological Reliquaries.

Reliquaries are containers for storing relics or holy objects. These objects are often the remains of something that has been destroyed or decayed. Thek’s meat works were inspired by a trip to the catacombs in Sicily where rows of human remains are kept—many of them in glass boxes or coffins with windows.

“Inside the glittery, swanky cases—the ‘modern art’ materials that were all the rage at the time, Formica and glass and plastic—was something very unpleasant, very frightening, and looking absolutely real.”

—Paul Thek

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