Blue Bar

2007 / 2022
non-fungible token

In the centre of a den featuring “girls” as the flickering neon sign proclaims, Ashley Bickerton’s signature blue man sits, smoking, nodding, and sloshing his wine. Of the three women in the room, only one is looking at him. The others are otherwise distracted – one pouts, one looks away. Despite being covered in vibrant colours, the man in all three primary colours and the girls even more garishly with body paint, the predominant emotion in the room is not one that is bright but one that is “blue”. With the exception of one smiling girl, each inhabitant is preoccupied with their own thoughts and thus separated from each other by invisible barriers, a division that is heightened by the sound of falling rain and the mournful howl of a dog kept out of the bar.

This image was lifted directly from a scene in a film I had made as a youngster some twenty-five years earlier. Whenever I reprise this costume, I feel exactly as Gene Simmons of the band Kiss must feel every time he dons his getup: something dreamed up in the forward-leaning hunger of youth must now be carried as baggage into the dragging weight of middle age.

Ashley Bickerton on the original painting ‘Blue Bar’ (2007)


Oil and Acrylic on Jute in Artist Designed Wood Frame, 222 x 212 x 13.5 cm

In this work, the ‘Blue Man’ – or 20th Century Man, appears as a sex tourist in the company of a sex worker, an all-too-familar scene in South East Asia. He represents a kind of anti-hero, a “degenerate, existential, ex-patriot who moves gracefully, easily as a paragon of indulgence and ease”. Bickerton neither glorifies nor villainizes these characters, but seeks to present them as they are – in a petri dish of ambiguous readings about exploitation and moral or cultural bankruptcy.