7 Artworks You Might Mistake for an Oscar

Casey Lesser
Feb 19, 2015 9:28PM

For many, mention of the Oscars conjures memorable moments from the storied awards ceremony: Charlie Chaplin’s 12-minute standing ovation; James Cameron proclaiming “I’m the king of the world!”; Roberto Benigni jumping over seats, for joy; Jennifer Lawrence falling over herself in a nervous frenzy—to name a few. But perhaps the most iconic and universal figure associated with the Academy Awards is the coveted gold statuette itself. 


Designed for the 1929 inception of the Oscars by Cedric Gibbons, an art director for MGM, the Oscar was realized soon after by L.A. artist George Stanley. The 24-karat gold-plated trophy, which hasn’t changed since its debut—aside from its material, which was altered during WWII—takes the form of a knight holding a sword, standing atop a reel of film. In honor of the talented individuals who will be celebrated at The Oscars this Sunday, we offer up seven artworks that remind us of the film industry’s most revered sculptural object.

Antony Gormley, STANDING MATTER XXXI, 2010

Contemporary British artist Antony Gormley is a master of the human form, from his monumental Angel of the North (1998) to his 1989–2003 work Field, a project in which he would fill spaces with hundreds of thousands of tiny clay figures. Works such as this one exemplify Gormley’s austere, robust figures that resonate with the Oscar’s pose and stoicism.


Unknown, Kouros, about 530 B.C. or modern forgery


The ancient Greek kouros, versions of which are found at major museums worldwide, is one of the earliest known sculptural figures depicting the human form. The Oscar departs from its classical form, which is characterized by, among other traits, a contrapposto stance and braided hairstyle.


Rob Pruitt, The Andy Monument, 2011

An allusion to classical statuary is something that the Oscar shares in common with Rob Pruitt’s gleaming chrome sculpture commemorating Andy Warhol. The work graced the northwest corner of New York’s Union Square—home to several historic statues—during 2011 and 2012, located just outside the building that housed Warhol’s Factory from 1968–84.


Takashi Murakami, The Birth Cry of a Universe, 2014

The Birth Cry of a Universe, 2014
Gagosian Gallery

This monstrous, totemic sculpture shares nothing in common with the small, spare Oscar, save for its gold, gleaming surface and columnar composition. The work was recently featured in Murakami’s 2014 exhibition at Gagosian Gallery in New York, a raucous, technicolor trip inspired by natural disaster and religious iconography.


Constantin Brancusi, Sleeping Muse, 1910

If one were to dismember Oscar’s head, smooth out its form, and add feminine features, it might resemble a tiny version of Brancusi’s iconic Sleeping Muse. This motif was a recurring one for the sculptor, who was intrigued by the physical and conceptual implications of a sleeping head and is renowned for his sleek, simplified forms.


Louise Bourgeois, Figure, 1960

Louise Bourgeois’s sculptural studies of the human body are rich in what the Oscar lacks: emotive curves and expressive flesh. Her works frequently engage in discussions of sex and gender, manifested through fluid, voluptuous forms that defy classical figurative sculpture.


Lauren Kalman, Composition with Ornament and Object 19, 2014

Lauren Kalman’s works, like this photograph, frequently combine conceptions of body image and social concerns through gold surfaces. Her practice of covering flesh with paint offers an intriguing commentary on the Oscar’s gold luster and idyllic physical form.


Casey Lesser
Casey Lesser is Artsy’s Director of Content.
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Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019