UnKonstipated: Kostabi?€™s Commode Confessional
By Baird Jones
According to the New York Post: MARK Kostabi, art world pariah, was not only snubbed by the New Museum of Contemporary Art, which wouldn?€™t invite him to the opening of East Village USA, he was also not invited to the reopening of the Museum of Modern Art, which welcomed Jeff Koons, Robert Rauschenberg, Brice Marden and Francesco Clemente. ?€?Even though I was the youngest artist ever in the museum?€™s permanent collection [age 24 in 1984], I was forced to crash,?€? Kostabi says. ?€?I hid in the men?€™s room for two hours in a stall. It was humiliating and embarrassing.?€? He emerged from the john with a brave face and made the best of it as the invited guests arrived.
What the Post?€™s Page Six summed up so succinctly was a much more intense, yet ultimately rewarding ordeal for the famed artist. Mark described it all to me in detail, ?€?When I was hiding in the toilet stall at the Museum of Modern Art… while I waited for two hours for the invited guests to arrive, about ten people came into the bathroom. Each time I sweated more. They were all guards and the 5th one asked me who I was and told me that the museum was closed. I said I was with the caterers. I felt so stupid sitting there, desperately formulating Duchampian justifications for sitting on the pot. I kept thinking of the significance of Duchamp?€™s urinal sculpture as a justification for my pathetic, desperate behavior. But in the end, all I came up with was the fact that I was a cheap hustler from Whittier, California crashing a party. I never stood on the toilet but when one guard came in to pee, I raised my legs in the air so he couldn?€™t see my unshined and scuffed Prada shoes. This made me feel even more ridiculous. I was very afraid of being caught. If I told the guard I was an artist in the collection he would probably have just ushered me out like the bum that I was that night.?€?
How did he get in there in the first place? Well a little status goes a long way. ?€?The way I accessed MoMA earlier that day was that I called the museum the day before and said I was an artist in the permanent collection and ?€?Could I have an invite??€? All they said was that they were too full and were not allowed to give out more invitations but that I could come to the daytime preview, which was basically a D-list event. At 5:00 PM everyone was aggressively ushered out while the caterers were setting up for the A-list opening. That?€™s when I got the idea of going to the bathroom. I did it alone. No one else accompanied me. I am a loner and I always was one. I?€™ve never crashed an event by hiding on the toilet before, but it?€™s not the first time I crashed a MoMA opening. Years ago I crashed the Louise Bourgeois MoMA retrospective by reaching over the counter and grabbing one of the used invites from another guest. Sloppy seconds.?€?
The normally invulnerable Kostabi seemed brave, though grim recounting the ordeal. ?€?I am very sad,?€? he told me, ?€?I am profoundly hurt by my expulsion from certain powerful quarters of the New York art world. I feel desperate. I was embarrassed by having to sit on the toilet in MoMA in order to crash the grand re-opening there. But I felt I belonged at that opening and I felt vaguely Duchampian as I sat on the can… for it was the great Marcel Duchamp who introduced the bathroom urinal as art, which is highly regarded by MoMA. In the end I felt in place, at one with the toilet, in the supreme temple of art. In Rome, I am a multimillionaire and loved by many. In New York I am on the pot, sweating, embarrassed, pathetically hoping to mingle with the A-crowd, hoping desperately to seize a page or two of art history. I was close to home on that toilet.?€?
Once the party started, Mark easily mingled in with everyone. ?€?In the end I enjoyed the opening and was glad I went through the humiliating toilet training. I was introduced to Robert Rauschenberg by Marion Javits as a ?€?very important, controversial young artist?€? and we had a nice conversation. At one point Jeff Koons, who earlier ignored me, came up to us and started talking at length to Rauschenberg about how much he admires him and his art historical significance. Then Gagosian came up and said ?€?I love you?€? to Rauschenberg who said ?€?I love you too?€? to Gagosian. Then Koons turned to Gagosian and said: ?€?I wish I had said that?€”you got right to the point.?€? Meanwhile, numerous photographers were snapping away and a picture of the four of us got published the next day in a press photo service. That photo alone was worth getting my ass numb on the toilet for 2 hours. Then I spoke to Brice Marden who said it was his dream come true to have a painting on MoMA?€™s wall. Francesco Clemente gave me his phone number and said I was welcome to visit his studio. I proposed a collaboration to Arman where he would create art with jumbled accumulations of my rejected and slashed paintings. He seemed enthusiastic about the idea. I spoke to Donald Sultan who was very friendly. I felt a sense of progress. There were in fact some C and D list people at the opening but I just focused on the stars to compensate for the humiliation of having to crash.?€?