Barton Lidice Benes, ‘Reliquarium’, 1999, International Collage Center

Collection International Collage Center

Image rights: © Estate of Barton Lidice Benes / Image provided by International Collage Center

Gift of the Estate of Barton Lidice Benes

About Barton Lidice Benes

In a darker continuation of Joseph Cornell’s Shadow Boxes, Barton Lidice Benes produced reliquaries containing the likes of Shirley Temple’s dollhouse, Alec Baldwin’s jockstrap, a fragment of an Egyptian pyramid, and a piece of tile from Hitler’s house. Benes called his best-known series of these intricate works “Museums”—miniature exhibitions of the eclectic artifacts he obsessively collected. Although initially focused on more intimate mementos, Benes' practice expanded, controversially, with his “Lethal Weapons” series and traveling exhibition to include the detritus of AIDS: cremated human remains and hypodermic needles filled with his HIV-infected blood. Themes of morbidity extended to Benes’s Greenwich Village apartment, which overflowed with memento mori, remnants of a plane crash, and a human toe found on the Williamsburg Bridge. With interest in his apartment nearly eclipsing that for his artwork, Benes bequeathed it to the North Dakota Museum, where a reconstructed version will stand as a permanent exhibition and house Benes’ ashes.

American, 1942-2012, Westwood, New Jersey