Brooklyn Museum Acquires Deborah Kass’s OY/YO

Deborah Kass, OY/YO, 2015, installed in front of Brooklyn Museum.

Museum sources confirm that Deborah Kass’s beloved OY/YO sculpture has officially joined the permanent collections of both the Cantor Arts Center in Palo Alto, California, and the Brooklyn Museum in New York.

Playful and inviting, OY/YO hits the topic of perspective head on. It spells YO when viewed from one side, and OY if you change where you stand. One is a salutation, the other an expression of angst. Situated in front of museum entrances on opposite coasts, the sculptures seem to invite every American in between to enlarge their point of view.

OY/YO debuted in 2015 on a grassy swath of Brooklyn Bridge Park. That’s where Susan Dackerman first saw it. Two years later, when Dackerman was named the John and Jill Freidenrich Director of the Cantor Arts Center, OY/YO was the first piece she commissioned for the museum’s permanent collection.

Deborah Kass (U.S.A., b. 1952), OY/YO, 2019. Aluminum, polymer and clear coat, 96 x 194.5 x 52 in. Installation view at the Cantor Arts Center. Gift of Debi and Steven Wisch and the Rehmus Family. (Image credit: Farrin Abbott)

Dackerman notes that Californians react as warmly as New Yorkers to the work. “When Deborah Kass spoke to our community earlier this year, we discussed that OY/YO simply makes people happy. Whether it’s the color, scale, resonance or some combination of factors, it brings a smile to visitors—and that’s important during difficult times. We’ve heard from students that the sculpture is a bold celebration of diversity and inclusivity, and that’s as high of a compliment as we could ask.”

“In some ways, OY/YO acts as a mascot for the Cantor’s encyclopedic collection,” Dackerman says. “It recalls numerous movements from the history of art while enabling viewers to ask profound questions about communication, process and form in a contemporary, approachable way. Its placement at the base of the museum’s neoclassical facade, graced by statues of Faith and Menander, is intended to blend the old with the new while making the museum more friendly and beckoning, especially for students.”

In 2018, OY/YO re-appeared in Brooklyn as part of a year-long public art activation in front of the Brooklyn Museum. The piece remained in place after year’s end and became a central gathering point for civil rights activists earlier this summer. Kass received word this summer that the museum has decided to permanently acquire the sculpture.

“As a New Yorker, as a Brooklynite, the OY/YO installation in front of the magnificent Brooklyn Museum is a dream,” Kass says. “The plaza has been a rallying place during this inflection point of rage and activism, for Black Trans Lives Matters and Juneteenth. I couldn’t march or rally—too vulnerable and also broke a toe. But I felt like the best of me was there in solidarity. Nothing has moved me more than seeing OY/YO surrounded by 10,000 of my sisters and brothers in love and power and pride. So incredibly emotional. It made me cry.”