Standing Room Only
Taxidermied cat on wooden drum
80,5 x 40 x 40 cm
Curled up in a ball, a ginger cat sleeps peacefully—in reality, it is stuffed—on a djembe, an African percussion instrument composed of a wooden barrel in the shape of a chalice and a skin stretched by a bundle of cords. The result is a striking, ambiguous image that is both familiar and radical. Created in 1996, Standing Room Only is a perfect example of the way David Hammons constantly explores the association of objects, their connotations, the play of words, their polysemy—often linked to African-American history and culture. Here, it is the figure of the cat, the alley cat, the musician from the street with whom jazzmen identify, and the protective presence of this instrument-root which dives into the African origins of jazz, the struggles and the voices that it embodies.
David Hammons's work is as much a part of the Western art tradition as it is of the continuity and revelation of his African-American culture and identity. Using a variety of practices—body prints, performances, installations—Hammons excels above all in the art of assemblage, a strong and radical gesture through which he establishes conversations, brings people together, creates tension and attention.
This work was presented for the first time in 2021 by the Pinault Collection in the inaugural exhibition of the Bourse de Commerce, entitled "Ouverture".