To think that it almost never was. When a curator from the National Gallery visited Scott’s studio in 1993 and discussed the idea of buying the car for the permanent collection, Scott had a sad reply: “You’re too late.” The Apocalypse Trans-Am had been scrapped.
|A recent photo of John Scott.
(Photo courtesy Nicholas Metivier Gallery)
“The first one just rotted away, because nobody gave a sh-t about it,” Scott says in a phone interview, from the Nicholas Metivier Gallery in Toronto. “It went to the scrapyard and it became a square. I was going to keep the square but it weighed about 2,000 or 3,000 pounds.”
Scott had originally made the piece in 1983, and believed it was the best work he’d done as an artist, but he couldn’t find a buyer, nor even a gallery that would take it as gift. It was a dark time in his career, he says, when he was “stomped on quite thoroughly critically.” I ask him if his Trans-Am was harshly criticized. He says it was “harshly ignored.” After several years he had no choice but to send it to the crusher. “It broke my heart,” he says.
“The first one took me about two weeks,” he says. “I did it all myself. I did a lot of drugs and worked around the clock. The second one, I had help, and it took me about five weeks.”
Why did it take longer with helpers?
“Because they were just f-ck ups,” he says, with typical candour. “What I had to restrain people from doing was writing their own poetry into the car. They would start writing their own stupid verse into the car. You explain to them that, ‘No, it’s a sacred text. It’s all one piece. You can’t improvise on the Old Testament’.”