Paul Thek “The Tomb (frequently called Death of a Hippie)”

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Paul Thek – The Tomb (1967)

“Officially Paul Thek died in 1988, but really he died twice. In 1967 he conceived The Tomb (frequently called Death of a Hippie) – the summation of a decade, a cultural ethos, and a career. It was the piece he never lived down and never lived up to.

Thek became the unwilling prophet of the failure of counterculture idealism and could not regain the tragicomic intensity of The Tomb or his Technological Reliquaries, wax sculptures of raw meat and body parts encased within vitrines.”

The Tomb consisted of a one-story-high, pale pink structure reminiscent of a Sumerian ziggurat, within which lay a full-size, painstakingly crafted effigy of Thek himself.

Painted pale pink, the replicant featured long hair and a moustache like Thek’s own, and wore a double-breasted suit and a necklace made of human hair, as well as other jewelry. Its tongue was sticking out of its mouth, and the fingers on its right hand – Thek’s working hand – were cut off, leaving bloody stumps. The fingers hung inside a pouch near the figure. (The artist was thus symbolically silenced, unable to do his work.)

The piece is now considered one of the great lost works of the 1960s. The figure disappeared after Thek refused to accept it from a shipping company in 1982, apparently because of damage the piece had incurred in transit.”

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