A pink taxi

A pink taxi

November 5, 2011

Nan Goldin's Breakfast Tray

When I read about the American photographer Nan Goldin, in 1997, in Vogue magazine, the article pushed me to visit her show alone at the Whitney museum in New York city that year.

I still remember the show, the way it was curated, the way the photographs were exhibited, almost with nonchalance, like college dorm snapshots. Nan Goldin had taken pictures of eccentric friends, transvestites, aids victims and battered women. They were kissing, sleeping, partying, grooming: all very intimate photos. Her autoportraits were the most memorable, as she is a woman with a plain physique, but some of them were of her face after she had been battered by her companion.

Two years later, in an art gallery, now closed, in Plainpalais, Geneva, the gallerist showed me some Nan Goldin prints. I saw the same photos of eccentric friends, the autoportraits and then a still life caught my attention. It was a breakfast tray.

I have always marveled at the symbolism of breakfast in bed, at the luxurious idea of waking up in a fancy hotel to an array of breakfast foods and hot drinks that you devour no sooner your eyes opened. I always compared the newborn that was brought to me from the hospital nursury very early in the morning for feeding as "breakfast in bed" because I was exhilerated by the discovery and acquaintance with my new baby (this happened 3 times!)

But Nan Goldin's breakfast tray wasn't just sexy as her photos tend to be. I appreciated this one for its classical references to Cezanne nature-morte or still life. He had always painted fruit and never such a rich variety of foods, but Goldin has included fruit on her tray as an artistic clin d'oeuil and her tray lay untouched on a stage of a wool blanketed bed, with theatrical curtains to each side for drama.

We considered buying the photograph, but in 1999, despite Nan Goldin's Whitney museum fame and my strong attraction to her breakfast tray, photography remained a risky investment. I don't think the price was high, in retrospect, and I believe the opportunity passed us by. I would do anything to find and purchase that breakfast tray photo today.

It has been a dozen years since I have seen Nan Goldin's breakfast tray, but I always mention it, if ever the thought of breakfast in bed occurred to me. The idea did visit me recently and I scurried through google image, desperate to see it again. Eureka! I found it.


  1. Very few hotels include breakfast in their deals.Now it is an eyepopping $60 in NYC or a Euro 45 in Europe.Also the comfort nature of a breakfast makes it a no no for healthy people.Yet I still remember the delicious breakfast brought to our room in Swiss hotels,with our hungry kids devouring it before it landed on our white sheet bed.At least we were left with the aromatic coffee.