Last month, in advance of the anticipated season finale of the blockbuster drama Succession, Hyperallergic took a deep dive into the art that adorns the hallowed halls of the Roy family universe — among them Peter Paul Rubens’s “Tiger Hunt” and an immersive vagina installation for Kendall’s birthday party at the Shed in Hudson Yards.
But why should the fun stop there? As we twiddle our thumbs aimlessly for the next few months, looking for a scrap of meaning in this senseless life until Succession returns for a fourth season, imagining which artworks should be in the show seemed like a proper pastime. The brilliant Sarah Bond shared a few suggestions from classical history (Judas! Nero!), and when I shared my mission on Instagram, my DMs were flooded with contemporary recommendations.
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“Those sad, defeated Kaws figures,” said one gallery director. (Kaws was by far the most popular submission, for obvious reasons.)
“Connor would commission James Turrell to do some crazy land art installation that will never be completed,” another chimed in.
“Greg would have a Banksy,” mused artist Gina Goico. “He saw Exit Through the Gift Shop and got obsessed and bought a piece at an online auction. When Tom heard Greg got a Banksy he got a [Mark] Bradford, just to show him ‘a real artist making social commentary and not compromising aesthetics.’”
Below is a list of works that made the curatorial cut. All of them were purchased as promised gifts to a major museum and shipped directly to the Geneva Freeport where they will remain uncrated until (and if) Logan Roy ever dies. One thing is certain: the Roy Family Museum would be vastly different from existing art institutions. It would be filled with trophy paintings, stolen artifacts, and — hey, wait a second…
“Return of the Prodigal Son” (1663-65) by Rembrandt
Created months before his death and widely interpreted as a coda in Rembrandt’s career, “Return of the Prodigal Son” evinces a decisive shift in the artist’s self-portraiture: instead of depicting himself as the hedonistic dandy of his youth, he appropriates the Parable of the Prodigal Son to paint a picture of humility and repentance. The thinning body and tattered garments of the artist, who falls to his knees into the father’s consoling arms, have been worn and shriveled by a life of excess, but he now conveniently sees the error of his ways. The whole thing screams “daddy issues” louder than Cousin Greg’s Rolex obsession screams nouveau riche. It also recalls the moment in season two when Kendall, having just killed a member of the serving staff at Shiv’s wedding in an unhinged, cocaine-driven car accident, crawls pathetically to Logan for validation and vindication. The father soothes and comforts him, right before feeding him to the lions.
“America” (2016) by Maurizio Cattelan
“I feel like I’m taking a shit in the Guggenheim,” says private equity investor Stewy as Logan watches him through the glass windows of the conference room during a meeting in season three, episode eight. Art world enfant terrible and prankster Maurizio Cattelan is known by many for taping a banana to a wall and selling it for several thousand dollars; one of his more evocative works, “America” (2016), is a fully functional, 18-karat gold toilet that was temporarily installed in the bathroom at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. The piece, which comments on luxury culture and excess while reflecting on the inevitable physical vulnerabilities shared by humans rich and poor, is the perfect prop for Stewy’s clever one-liner. (The Roys have been compared to both the Murdochs and the Trumps; fittingly, when Donald and Melania requested a Van Gogh for the White House in 2018, the Guggenheim counter-offered Cattelan’s shiny loo.)
“Kiss of Judas” by Giotto (1306)
Probably the most well-known of the Scrovegni Chapel frescoes, Giotto’s “Kiss of Judas” depicts the moment when backstabbing Judas identifies Christ through an embrace and turns him over to a bloodthirsty crowd. Betrayal is a dish regularly served up in Succession, and while not a single character is saintly, the show is rife with biblical references. Giotto’s early Renaissance masterpiece evokes the second season finale, when Logan tells Kendall that he has been chosen to take the fall for the egregious violations and abuses in Waystar Royco’s cruise ships division. Ken appears to acquiesce, only to do a total 180 and blame Logan for the damning scandal on a public news conference as the family watches in horror. Minutes earlier, he had kissed his father on the cheek before walking away — the scene is now known as “Judas’s kiss.”
“Apocalypse Now” (1988) by Christopher Wool
The words “SELL THE HOUSE SELL THE CAR SELL THE KIDS” are stenciled in Christopher Wool’s distinctive block lettering on his 1988 work “Apocalypse Now,” arguably the most recognizable of the artist’s word paintings. The cheeky quip, which blends dark humor with cold, hard capitalist truth, couldn’t be more relevant to the Roy dynasty’s utter disregard for familial love and obsessive fixation on dividends. Even the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), which has war profiteers and late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein’s client Leon Black on its board, wouldn’t take the painting as a donation. (Hilariously, we could not secure image permissions for this article because Wool does not want his work “reproduced in this context,” according to his gallery, which is just … *chef’s kiss*.)
A Bust of Emperor Nero
There is no shortage of ruthless leaders of antiquity, fictional and real, who resonate with Succession characters. Much has been said of Logan’s obsession with Corinthian helmets and parallels with Agamemnon, the Greek mythological king of Mycenae who sacrificed his daughter to gain an advantage in the Trojan War. If Roman Emperor Nero’s tyrannical rule and litany of crimes (burning down his own city, sleeping with his mother, etc.) are not enough to earn his likeness in marble a designated gallery in the Roy Family Museum, here’s a more persuasive angle. It is said that Nero, upon killing his wife, castrated and married a freedman named Sporus who resembled her. Fast-forward two thousand years to season three, episode four of Succession, when Tom Wambsgans, who has just purchased a massive volume on the Roman Empire “to read in prison,” recounts the tale of Nero and Sporus to Cousin Greg. “I’d castrate you and marry you in a heartbeat,” Tom says to his lackey. The uncomfortable scene foreshadows Tom’s betrayal of his own wife, Shiv, in the season’s final episode, when he tips off Logan to the siblings’ plans of using their supermajority vote to stop the Waystar sale. Moments earlier, Tom does not bother to conceal the heavy-handed allegory when he propositions Greg to join him: “Do you want to come with me, Sporus?”
Bonus: When the three younger Roy siblings are plotting their scheme, Shiv convinces Roman to get on board by hitting him with some hard truths: “Dad will never choose you because he thinks there’s something wrong with you.” (Roman’s sexual dysfunctions make him the eunuch in this scenario.)
A Chihuly Chandelier and Other Insipid “Art Collection” Staples
“Shiv owns something expensive and dumb like a neutral colored Chihuly chandelier, and never gets back to her frantic art advisor that she got through her friend Ivanka,” one NYC gallery director hypothesized. Dale Chihuly’s blown glass sculptures are often derided by the proverbial contemporary art world, which has never truly recognized his work as art and instead bestows upon him the humiliating title of “designer.” This fact has never stopped the average white, art collecting couple from acquiring one of his monstrously undulating chandeliers or vases, which somehow manage to be both tacky and bland at the same time; at once overly ornamental and yet completely devoid of personality. (This category also includes art fair returning champions like Anish Kapoor’s mirror pieces; those pretentiously massive George Condo paintings; and wow, remember these?) Basically anything that appears in the celebrity homes in Architectural Digest’s Open Doors series is fair game.
The Medusa-like glass snakes Chihuly’s sculptures are known for could also symbolize the Roy siblings’ grubby tentacles slithering all over the Waystar reins and fortune, if you wanted a more literary spin.
Logan and his employees’ shameless cover-up of human rights violations on the company’s cruises have made it clear that they are not only filthy rich, but also criminals — two categories which often dovetail. As such, the Roy Collection would not be complete with one or 12 plundered artifacts, preferably of the spoils-of-colonialism variety (i.e., the Benin Bronzes, snatched by the British army during their 1897 raid on the West African Kingdom of Benin). Alternatively, something taken under “uncertain circumstances” could also be a good fit, ideally a ceremonial object with enormous significance for the culture it was seized from and absolutely no personal relevance for the pillager except as a collectible, value-accruing asset. This Cambodian “Head of Buddha” gifted to the Met Museum by antiquities dealer Douglas Latchford, who used offshore accounts to transact in looted art, would be just the thing for the boardroom.
This Boar Hunt Mosaic
Remember in the third episode of season two, aptly titled “Hunting,” when Logan forces his employees to play a horrifyingly cruel game known as “Boar on the Floor,” whose ultimate aim is to identify the “mole” among them and wherein the losers must oink and crawl for their supper sausages? We have an art for that!!! This ancient Roman tesserae mosaic, likely produced in the fourth century CE for the residence of a wealthy family, is really quite lovely, but it must be sacrificed for aesthetic coherence of this iconic scene.
Finally, an NFT From the Bored Ape Yacht Club
No character on Succession embodies the desperate thirst for social relevance that surely accompanies every purchase of an NFT from the bombastic Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) series than Kendall Roy. (If you are not yet familiar with the phenomenon that is BAYC, it’s a collection of 10,000 non-fungible tokens NFTs featuring anthropomorphic scenester apes looking unimpressed. Each avatar comes with an exclusive membership to the so-called online “Swamp Club.” Eminem and Jimmy Fallon each have one, and they sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars. BAYC tokens have recently been at the center of separate controversies involving plagiarism and speculations of neo–Nazi propaganda.) It would make sense that FOMO-driven, fake-woke, deeply insecure Kendall, who forces his shrinking posse to play “Good Tweet/Bad Tweet” in a limo and screams “Fuck the patriarchy!” to the cameras in one of his many cringey appropriations of the #MeToo movement, would buy into the NFT craze. I’d bet one whole ETH that he would buy the most expensive ape but immediately lose the password to his crypto wallet (like that one guy), and claim he did it all on purpose as some misplaced social commentary no one will understand.