Kienholz’s ‘Five Car Stud’ Will Be Shown at the Prada Foundation in Milan

Edward Kienholz, "Five Car Stud," 1972.COURTESY FONDAZIONE PRADA

Edward Kienholz, Five Car Stud, 1972.


Edward Kienholz’s Five Car Stud, which is owned by Milan’s Fondazione Prada, will be exhibited in Italy for the first time, in a Kienholz retrospective that opens May 19 at the foundation. Five Car Stud ranks as one of the most controversial and elusive works of contemporary art from the second half of the 20th century. A life-size sculptural installation that depicts a gang of white men wearing Halloween masks attempting to castrate a black man while his white girlfriend vomits in horror, the scene is illuminated by the headlights of five cars, gathered in a circle around the center of violence. The artist made the piece between 1969 and 1972, and showed it only briefly in his lifetime, at Documenta 5, held in Kassel, Germany the same year the work was completed. (Kienholz died in 1994; Five Car Stud was the last piece he made solo before beginning an artistic collaboration with his wife Nancy, which would last until his death.)

The piece quickly took on the feeling of a myth, known only by a few grainy, black-and-white photographs of its original installation. Five Car Stud was purchased by a Japanese collector and sat in storage for some 40 years before finally resurfacing in a show at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2011. At the time, the museum offered the following warning about Five Car Stud on its website: “Please note that this work contains images of explicit violence and nudity.”

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