‘Games Of Chance’ — RISD Museum

I suppose I should pace myself; Raid the Icebox Now at the RISD Museum will be up through September and I have already written up the insane wallpaper and the disco room. But I recently stumbled into this installment and it stopped me in my tracks. I believe I let out an audible gasp.

Sculptor Beth Katleman casts found objects, such as vintage dolls and other flea market trinkets, in white porcelain and arranges them in ornate tableaus.  In ‘Games of Chance’ — located in a corridor leading to the Pendelton House area of the museum — Katleman asks “How can we reconcile a wealthy art patron’s personal wrongdoings with the merits of his or her collection?” Although by today’s standards, Charles Pendelton’s wrongdoings seem positively conventional. From her website (which features an excellent slideshow by photographer Erik Gould):

In 1904, Pendleton donated his prized collection of decorative arts to the RISD Museum, honing his image as a gentleman for posterity. His personal reputation, however, was less than gentlemanly. His scandals included compulsive gambling and an unnamed “indiscretion with a female” that caused his expulsion from Yale.

Maybe. With enough money and a Y chromosome, getting expelled from Yale can only enhance one’s reputation. Katleman goes on to describe an unbelievable course of events.

During the 2017 renovation of the RISD Museum, a miraculous discovery came to light. An HVAC contractor inadvertently demolished the wrong wall and uncovered a storage room not listed on the building floorplan. Inside he found box after box labeled “Games of Chance Room, CL Pendleton,” along with a set of blueprints. The curators recognized it immediately as the contents of the long-lost porcelain room. Experts have spent the past two years reassembling the room at the RISD Museum, piece by piece.

Did that really happen? Her exhibit text ends, “As I created this work, my imagination morphed actual events from Pendleton’s life into surreal fairy tales. I invite you to enter this strange world and fill in the details for yourself.”

I strongly recommend this strange world. It’s like being inside a Wedgewood funhouse. Look for Marilyn Monroe (a nod to Warhol) as the goddess Fortuna.

RISD Museum, 20 North Main Street, (directions)


Making the visuals even more intense are the two mirrors on opposite walls, which creat an infinity effect. The Campbell Soup kids? Warhol again.

There is so much to take in.

1 thought on “‘Games Of Chance’ — RISD Museum”

  1. Is the exhibit made up of the contents from Pendletons personal collection or recreations by an artist? Thanks!

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