October 21, 2013  |  Collection & Exhibitions
The Sincerest Form of Flattery

Halloween at my high school was never boring. The classic 1980 movie Fame was inspired by NYC’s La Guardia HS, and was pretty accurate: you would indeed hear gospel singing in a music room above you during homeroom, see young actors heatedly rehearsing scenes in the hallways, and the art students—ah, the art students. I knew them well as I was among them. Some were mind-bogglingly prodigious, and perhaps as a result, Halloween proved to be a way to show off the skillz that would surely later in life pay the billz. Case in point: Tristan Elwell’s costume one year.

When I saw the above photo again after lo, so many years (please also note the existence of not one, not two, but three mullets behind Tristan), I felt the inevitable surge of nostalgia, and also a sense of synchronicity. The Magritte exhibition had just begun, and as such my head was full of green apples and bowler hats.

I found myself wondering what other Magritte-ian things were out there. As it so happens, Anne and Danielle, the curators of Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926­–1938, had already done their own Internet searching and found several clever and charming things like this:

Hilary B Price, Rhymes with Orange, “Magritte Arrives Home”

Hilary B. Price, Rhymes with Orange, “Magritte Arrives Home

And this:

Of course, people aren’t only riffing on The Son of Man.* The Treachery of Images (This Is Not a Pipe) is equally well-known, if not more so.

In fact, even the cover of the book I was reading at the time happened to reflect this beloved painting.

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks, 2011 Picador Edition, cover illustration by Paul Slater

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks, 2011 Picador Edition, cover illustration by Paul Slater

But I have to admit this last one, inspired by the spooky and haunting The Lovers, is my favorite of these. Not as spooky and haunting as the real thing, but not exactly a laugh riot, either, these parking lot lovers managed to create their own work of art. And as we all know, Plastic Bags Are Not a Toy. How riskily romantic of them!

Michael Kauffmann, The Lovers, 2012

Michael Kauffmann. The Lovers. 2012

And then I stumbled upon Andrea K. Scott’s article in the New Yorker, in which she declared “Magritte’s art has been hijacked…from the Beatles’ record label to a Volkswagen ad to a bowler-hat light fixture.” Hijacked is a strong word, Ms. Scott! After all, Magritte’s art isn’t the first to inspire inventive takeoffs.

See a few more Magritte tributes on our recently launched MoMA Tumblr.

* Son of Man is not on view in MoMA’s current exhibition, as it was painted in 1964, after Magritte’s breakthrough years. However, The Lovers and The Treachery of Images (This Is Not a Pipe) are.