Ashley Bickerton Tormented Self-Portrait (Susie at Arles) 1987-88

  • Not on view

Tormented Self-Portrait (Susie at Arles) is an unconventional self-portrait. At the center of the work are brand names that represent day-to-day consumer choices. At the margins the artist repeats "Susie," his signature and trademark for this series, in the graphic style of a corporate logo. The work was inspired by self-portraits painted by Vincent van Gogh, but rather than relying on expressionistic brushstrokes, Bickerton proposes an abstract visage composed of consumer logos as a new form of self-expression and identity for a consumer society.

Gallery label from Contemporary Galleries: 1980-Now, November 17, 2011-February 17, 2014.
Additional text

After moving to New York in the early 1980s, Bickerton began making what he called “contemplative wall units,” which imitate the rectilinear forms and industrial materials of Minimalism. Unlike the Minimalists, however, Bickerton attached his anodized–aluminum boxes to the wall with heavy–duty decorative brackets and covered them with corporate logos or brightly colored rocklike forms. In Tormented Self–Portrait, Bickerton portrays himself through the brands of products he uses, from ConEdison electricity to Bayer aspirin. The subtitle refers both to “Susie Culturelux,” a brand name he invented, and to the city of Arles, where Vincent van Gogh, another artist famous for creating self–portraits, worked. Looking like a sponsored automobile or even a household appliance, Tormented Self–Portrait debuted in Bickertons first solo exhibition at Sonnabend Gallery, in 1988, and was acquired by MoMA the same year.

Gallery label from Ileana Sonnabend: Ambassador for the New, December 21, 2013–April 21, 2014.

Inspired by Vincent van Gogh's self-portraits, Bickerton created a new mode of self-representation that reflects how identity is experienced in the contemporary world. The artist has asked, "What exactly constitutes our notion of individual identity? We wake up in the morning and select our individuality from a finite catalogue of readymade possibilities." Rather than expressionistic brushstrokes or an emotion–laden palette, in Tormented Self-Portrait (Susie at Arles) Bickerton supplies an array of corporate and personal logos and proposes that their combination forms an honest and "tormented" self–portrait.

Occupying the center of the composition are the brand names that represent those day–to–day consumer choices that ostensibly express our personality to others. At the margins the artist repeats his signature and his trademark for this series, "Susie," in the graphic style of a corporate logo. Bickerton does not ignore how integral consumption is to self–expression, and he also does not elide the degree to which the art object is a commercial product. Encased in protective leather that can be unfurled with ease, equipped with a complete hanging system, and prominently branded, Tormented Self-Portrait (Susie at Arles) is ready for purchase and shipment.

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2007, p. 84.
Acrylic on anodized aluminum, bronze powder and lacquer on wood, rubber, plastic, formica, leather, chrome-plated steel, and canvas
7' 5 3/8" x 68 3/4" x 15 3/4" (227.1 x 174.5 x 40 cm)
Object number
© 2024 Ashley Bickerton
Painting and Sculpture

Installation views

We have identified these works in the following photos from our exhibition history.

How we identified these works

In 2018–19, MoMA collaborated with Google Arts & Culture Lab on a project using machine learning to identify artworks in installation photos. That project has concluded, and works are now being identified by MoMA staff.

If you notice an error, please contact us at [email protected].


If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

MoMA licenses archival audio and select out of copyright film clips from our film collection. At this time, MoMA produced video cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. All requests to license archival audio or out of copyright film clips should be addressed to Scala Archives at [email protected]. Motion picture film stills cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For access to motion picture film stills for research purposes, please contact the Film Study Center at [email protected]. For more information about film loans and our Circulating Film and Video Library, please visit

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication, please email [email protected]. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to [email protected].


This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to [email protected].