The lavish ceremony at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla., stands as a high-water mark of the future president’s acceptance in a glittering world of models and media personalities — a world in which he is now persona non grata. But he remains its obsession. He is its muse, its model and the source of so many of its jokes. Were the guests not sated by the cake? Serrano may be seeking to discover why not.
The 14-year-old baked good could make for a mouthwatering addition to an oeuvre that includes the divisive 1987 work “Immersion (Piss Christ),” which earned the photographer his epithet. The red-and-amber-hued image of a crucifix submerged in a glass container of the artist’s own urine drew rebuke on the floor of the U.S. Senate. It spurred a court battle over blasphemy in Australia. It has been vandalized and has led to death threats for museum employees who dare to display it.
Serrano, 68, purchased Trump’s cake for $1,880 at an auction last week in Boston. It measures 3.25 inches in diameter and rises 3 inches tall.
The dessert sits in its original off-white paper box, monogrammed “M D T” in gilt, according to RR Auction, which set the minimum bid at $200. The souvenir last changed hands in 2017, when the California-based Julien’s Auctions collected $2,240 for the item.
“The box is in very good condition, with scattered stains,” the listing noted.
The miniature cakes were edible stand-ins for a $50,000 confectionery feat requiring elaborate wire supports that made it impossible to serve to guests. Buttercream filled the seven-tier, 200-pound sponge cake, flavored with orange zest and soaked in Grand Marnier liqueur. It was festooned with 2,000 sugar-spun flowers.
It doesn’t appear that Serrano, the only child of an immigrant father from Honduras and a mother of Afro-Cuban descent, was on the guest list for the wedding.
But the native New Yorker does have a relationship with the president. He photographed him in the early 2000s, as part of a series titled “America.”
His portrait of Trump, which he slotted in the celebrity section of the series, is an imposing close-up of the businessman and reality television star in a red-striped tie. The venerable portrayal represents a departure from the themes of desecration and violence that have defined the work of the artist, who is Catholic and has described his art as an attempt to “personalize religion for myself.” His examination of “Torture” asked subjects who had been abused in real life to pose for the reproduction of their suffering.
When he trained his camera on Trump, however, his impulse was patriotic.
“I took Donald Trump’s portrait for my America series, started shortly after September 11th,” the bugbear of conservative politicians and religious groups told Vice. “I felt we had been attacked as the ‘enemy’ and I wanted to show who America is.”
In 2016, the photographer declined to join Guardian art critic Jonathan Jones in disparaging the then-candidate for the GOP nomination. “I never speak ill of people who’ve posed for me,” Serrano said. The British critic wrote that the photographer “can even see the human in Trump. His portrait is like a waxwork image of a powerful man, glaring enigmatically at the camera.”
Serrano is staying mum about his plans for the 14-year-old cake.
“Artists work in mysterious ways,” he told the Art newspaper. “You never know what they’re up to! I don’t like to talk about things until I’m ready to talk.”
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