Artwork Data


Telefooncel met buste Stalin


Vitaly Komar, Alex (Alexander) Melamid


(1986) 2002


staal, brons, kunststof


h. 200 cm

Artwork Location


Stadhouderslaan, Den Haag

City district


GPS data

52.090721988887, 4.2792431194351 View on map

Artwork Description


When it was unveiled in The Hague's red light district in 1986, some gave the work of art less than 24 hours. The reactions varied from 'wonderful' to 'get lost with that thing'. In the end, it was allowed to stand on the corner of Hunsestraat and Geleenstraat for sixteen years. The alarm cell, decorated with dark red draperies and with a bust of Stalin in the middle, a herring in front of it and a kitschy table lamp next to it, gave in in 2002. The work of art left the battlefield badly damaged. The municipality took care of the emergency cell of the internationally renowned Russian artist duo Vitali Komar and Alexander Melamid, who had lived in New York since 1977.

In Rotterdams Dagblad of 3 August 2002, Roel Arkesteijn, at the time curator of the GEM museum of contemporary art, said: 'The sculpture is unique and has many meanings. It would be a shame if it were to disappear, and there was a threat of that happening. Together with the municipality, he made efforts to renovate and relocate it. Just past the Haags Gemeentemuseum, the GEM/Fotomuseum Den Haag, the alarm cell now stands behind the Statenplein bus stop in the neat Staatsliedenbuurt neighbourhood.

As is often the case with relocated sculptures, the original context has been lost. The artists had carefully chosen Geleenstraat, because they thought it was the most beautiful street in The Hague and the location was appropriate. According to the artists, Stalin (1879-1953) collected erotic prints for the sake of eroticism, not art. They were also excited about the Herring King around the corner. So Stalin, who loved herring, could get a fresh one every day. It is clear; with this image, Komar and Melamid mock the former dictator, but not without a serious undertone that exposes the relationship between sex and power and politics and prostitution.