Free candy in a museum – Félix González-Torres

Felix Gonzalez-Torres - "Untitled" (Portrait of Ross in L.A.), 1991, The Art Institute of Chicago
Felix Gonzalez-TorresUntitled (Portrait of Ross in L.A.), 1991, Candies individually wrapped in multicolor cellophane, endless supply. Dimensions vary with installation; ideal weight 175 lbs. At The Art Institute of Chicago
(Photo mark6mauno Flickr)

Why did Félix González-Torres install candy in museums?

Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ has created nineteen candy pieces which were featured in many museums around the world. The works target the topic of a serious nature, one that is still unfortunately often taboo in mainstream society. It takes the topic from the shadows, where individuals still cringe and avert their eyes, and lays it on the table for discussion and contemplation.

‘Untitled” (Portrait of Ross in L.A.)’

The approximate 175 pounds of candy that make up the work resembles the 175-pound body of Ross Laycock, the artists’ boyfriend who died of AIDS in 1991. As each person takes a piece of candy, they in turn act as the AIDS virus depleting Ross’ body, piece by piece taking it away until there is nothing left. Felix Gonzalez-Torres, who dedicated his artwork to the one he love and lost, died in 1996 of AIDS.

The meaning of the artwork

His work doesn’t only represent the disease and its depletion on the body, but it represents the love between the person who is suffering from the disease and the person who is there to support them and suffer with them. The sweet candy, in and of itself, is a representation of love. If you think about giving candy to a loved one on valentine’s day, sweets in a box with flowers on mother’s day, candy has long been tied to affection and love. While the candy is eaten, while the body begins to disappear, the love remains.

Conclusion

While there has been much development and change since the 1980s and 1990s, there has been no cure and there has remained a stigma attached to the disease. Treatment allows individuals with HIV to live long and fairly normal lives, however, there is still much more work needed in the area, and there is a need for unstigmatized conversation.

This work of art says so much and is absolutely just as important today as it was in the 1990s. If you ever have the chance, this is a piece you must see.

Photos: ‘Untitled (Portrait of Ross in L.A.)’, 1991

Felix Gonzalez-Torres - "Untitled" (Portrait of Ross in L.A.), 1991, The Art Institute of Chicago
Felix Gonzalez-TorresUntitled (Portrait of Ross in L.A.), 1991, Candies individually wrapped in multicolor cellophane, endless supply. Dimensions vary with installation; ideal weight 175 lbs. At The Art Institute of Chicago

Felix Gonzalez-Torres - "Untitled" (Portrait of Ross in L.A.), 1991, The Art Institute of Chicago
Felix Gonzalez-TorresUntitled (Portrait of Ross in L.A.), 1991, Candies individually wrapped in multicolor cellophane, endless supply. Dimensions vary with installation; ideal weight 175 lbs. At The Art Institute of Chicago

Felix Gonzalez-Torres - "Untitled" (Portrait of Ross in L.A.), 1991, The Art Institute of Chicago
Felix Gonzalez-TorresUntitled (Portrait of Ross in L.A.), 1991, Candies individually wrapped in multicolor cellophane, endless supply. Dimensions vary with installation; ideal weight 175 lbs. At The Art Institute of Chicago

Photos: ‘Untitled (USA Today)’, 1990

Félix González-Torres – Untitled (USA Today), 1990
Félix González-Torres – Untitled (USA Today), 1990, Candies, individually wrapped in red, silver, and blue cellophane (endless supply), Dimensions vary with installation Ideal weight: 300 lbs (136 kg), at Museum MMK für Moderne Kunst MMK, Frankfurt

Photos: ‘Untitled (Lover Boys)’, 1991

The weight of this pile of candy is 161 kg, the ideal joint weight of the artist’s and the artist’s partner’s bodies. His partner, Ross Laycock, was dying of AIDS as the work was done. Viewers are encouraged to take away candy from the pile, which then gets refilled by museum staff – symbolizing loss and eternity.

Felix Gonzalez‐Torres – Untitled (Lover Boys), 1991, installation view MMK, 2011
Felix Gonzalez‐Torres – Untitled (Lover Boys), 1991, installation view MMK, 2011
Photo: Axel Schneider

Felix Gonzalez‐Torres – Detail of Untitled (Lover Boys), 1991, installation view MAC Belfast, 2015-2016
Felix Gonzalez‐Torres – Detail of Untitled (Lover Boys), 1991, installation view MAC Belfast, 2015-2016

Photos: ‘Untitled (Portrait of Marcel Brient)’, 1991

Félix González-Torres – Untitled (Portrait of Marcel Brient), 1992
Félix González-Torres – Untitled (Portrait of Marcel Brient), 1992, Candies, individually wrapped in light-blue cellophane (endless supply), Ideal weight: 198.5 lbs (90 kg); dimensions vary with installation.

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