2,841,777 Sing

Jonathan Borofsky, American, born 1942


Acrylic on canvas, three Polaroid prints, painted aluminum, and a stereo cassette with a tape loop

10 feet 7 inches × 8 feet (322.6 × 243.8 cm)

© Jonathan Borofsky, courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York

Curatorial Department:
Contemporary Art

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Purchased with the Edward and Althea Budd Fund, the Adele Haas Turner and Beatrice Pastorius Turner Memorial Fund, and funds contributed by Marion Boulton Stroud, Mr. and Mrs. Harvey Gushner, Ella B. Schaap, Mrs. H. Gates Lloyd, Eileen and Peter Rosenau, Frances and Bayard Storey, Dr. and Mrs. William Wolgin, Mrs. Donald A. Petrie, Mark Rosenthal, Harold P. Starr, and two anonymous donors, 1984

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Additional information:
  • PublicationTwentieth-Century Painting and Sculpture in the Philadelphia Museum of Art

    Like much of Borofsky's work, Sing is a self-sufficient work of art that first served as one component of a large extravaganza. It originated as part of a presentation at the Paula Cooper Gallery in New York in 1983 and was reincarnated in a retrospective exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art the following year. Both installations were circuslike, densely packed with sculptures, and filled with a chorus of sounds. Borofsky is a master of the art form known as "installation" or "environment," treating a given gallery or museum space as a surrogate studio in order to re-create the chaos of his usual work setting.

    Sing presents an exuberantly fanciful image of the artist. Dressed in a blue robe, he receives a tablet from above, much as Moses received the Ten Commandments, caught in an explosive swirl of paint that suggests the force of divine presence. This painting cannot be contained in two dimensions: applied to its surface are Polaroid snapshots of the artist's hands and foot, and springing from its top edge is a huge aluminum ribbon in the form of a human profile, mouth open in song. Indeed, the artist has obeyed the command printed on the tablet and attached to the painting a tape recording of his own singing.

    The full title of the work, 2,841,777 Sing, reflects Borofsky's habit of signing each work he makes with a number. Borofsky began his career as a painter and sculptor but abandoned art-making in the late 1960s and turned to the meditative activity of writing number charts on sheets of paper. As he eventually began to make objects again, he continued the counting, attaching numbers to individual pieces. Marking time and work, the numbers provide an existential dimension to Borofsky's joyous enterprise. Philadelphia Museum of Art: Twentieth Century Painting and Sculpture in the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2000), p. 128.