Millennial Artist Debuts $2.95M Solid Gold Avocado Bagel Sculpture
The spendy sandwich is currently being shown at Berlin Art Week before making its way to Miami.
Two years ago, artist Tim Bengel surprised the attendees of Berlin Art Week — and residents of the city — with a public art installation called "Flower Skull Cemetery." Bengel, who is originally from Stuttgart, laid one hundred gold-engraved gravestones on a vacant property near where the Berlin Wall once stood. He and his team surrounded the white marble stones with thousands of flowers, which had to be carefully placed in accordance with the piece's title.
When seen from above, the floral arrangements formed the shape of a massive red skull and crossbones and, when visitors walked on the stone pathways that ran vertically through the flowers and greenery, they could read the inscriptions on the gravestones. "I tried to impress people I didn't like," one read. "I only lived once. LOL," another sighed.
"It's super stupid to worry about Instagram likes," Bengel told ArtNet, after he was revealed as the artist of the piece. "There are so many things you worry about in your everyday life that are not worth worrying about."
This year's Berlin Art Week starts on Wednesday, September 15, and Bengel will be there, debuting his newest work. Although his sculpture "Who Wants to Live Forever?" has a significantly smaller footprint than "Flower Skull Cemetery," it comes with a much bigger price tag.
For this piece, Bengel started with a real sliced pumpkin bagel, five tomato slices, five onion rings, five slices of avocado, and 10 arugula leaves. He scanned and 3-D printed molds of the bagel, and then cast the entire thing in more than €300,000 ($354,000) worth of liquid gold. (Bengel told Food & Wine that he ate the actual, non-gold bagel after the process was complete.)
"For thousands of years, people have attributed meaning to gold," Bengel explained in an email. "Whether as the tears of the gods, as with the Aztecs, or as the source of eternal wealth, as with King Midas in ancient Greece. Of course, gold and especially its mining also have considerable downsides. There are parallels with the avocado, the 'green gold' of a new industry. To capture the cultural significance of the avocado, no material would be more fitting than gold."
The 29-year-old artist said that his goal for the piece was to capture one aspect of the current cultural climate. "I asked myself 'What is the symbol of my millennial generation?'" he explained. "It had to be something that combines topics like the adaptation of the internet, the use of social media, [and] the trend towards a healthy lifestyle with turbo-capitalism and the destruction of our livelihoods."
The only possible representation of all of those ideas, he decided, was the avocado — specifically this extravagant take on avocado toast. "Who Wants to Live Forever" will be available for sale through Galerie Rother and has an asking price of €2.5 Million (US$2.95 million, or roughly the same price as four bagels from an airport Starbucks). The work will also be displayed at Art Miami in December.
"The sculpture is intended to trigger an awareness of our present time: a time of rapid change, social media, fitness trends, green revolution, environmental destruction, turbo- capitalism, and constant self-optimization," Bengel said. "Perhaps we are living in the most exciting times ever. Be aware of that."