Spooky Art: The Last Supper 1984 by Albert Szukalski (Interpretation and Analysis)

The Last Supper 1984
Source: Goldwell Open Museum

October is the month of all things spooky. So, to celebrate the month of Halloween, I want to talk about a sculpture that rethinks a classic piece of art in a uniquely creepy way: The Last Supper by Albert Szukalski.

Housed in the Goldwell Open Museum — an outdoor sculpture park that was created to house the piece — the piece reimagines Leonardo Da Vinci’s fresco the Last Supper. As you’re probably aware, this fresco is one of the most famous and recognizable pieces of art in the world (my guess is that only the Mona Lisa and Starry Night are more famous). However, you could be forgiven for failing to recognize Da Vinci’s influence on Szukalski’s work.

Instead of the flesh and blood figures that populate Da Vinci’s work, Christ and his apostles appear in Szukalski’s sculpture as ghosts. According to my research, Szukalski was inspired to create the Last Supper after observing the similarities between the landscape of the Middle East and the Mojave Desert. Working from Da Vinci’s original fresco, he created twelve fiberglass ghosts standing or sitting in the postures portrayed in Da Vinci’s Last Supper. Each sculpture contains a human-shaped void instead of a body; the ghost itself is a white sheet draped over nothing. The table and chairs are also missing, giving the impression of a phantom feast visible only to the ghost’s themselves.

According to my research, Szukalski’s Last Supper was tremendously popular when it was revealed, with many people flocking to the lonely spot to see the sculpture. It’s easy to see why it drew crowds. The eerie white shapes appearing suddenly in the desolate desert landscape must be a sight to behold. Yet, while the sculpture is disconcerting, it’s also charming, fantastical, and even somewhat comical.

The piece still draws many visitors even though Szukalski himself estimated that his Last Supper would be destroyed by the elements in about two years. However, almost four decades later, the piece is still the centerpiece of the museum. You could call it something of an artistic miracle.

Although Szukalski is primarily known for his Last Supper, he is also famous for creating many other pieces of ghost art, including another sculpture at the Goldwell Open Museum called Ghost Rider. To my mind Szukalski’s work exemplifies all the best characteristics of modern art. It is thought-provoking, unique, and creative. And, most importantly, it creates a spooky atmosphere. Happy October!