It has recently been revealed that a gaggle of beheaded sheep have been doddling around Ellen DeGeneres’s ginormous mansion, alongside a bunch of other “fine art.” They are not literally sheep, they are benches, or footrests, or maybe even stools. But they are rendered like sheep, and they haunt me.
For reasons that aren’t immediately clear—rich people do tend to just dump off millions worth in luxury goods every so often—DeGeneres has decided to part ways with her spooky farm animal art—$10 million worth of sheep and other paraphernalia, to be exact.
Bloomberg reports that the disgraced talk show baron is offloading a hefty amount of pricey art at an East Hampton gallery, and that her collection includes multiple Basquiat’s, “a mobile sculpture by Alexander Calder, and a flock of sheep benches (stools? foot rests?) by Francois-Xavier Lalanne.”
While images of DeGeneres’s sheep aren’t immediately available, bits and pieces of her gargantuan art collection have been featured in Architectural Digest (check out that massive fucking Basquiat on the wall) or through Sotheby’s, when she and wife Portia de Rossi sold their Montecito villa.
Most curious, though, are DeGeneres’s flock of sheep, designed by legendary sculpturist Francois-Xavier Lalanne. Bloomberg reports that said sheep range anywhere from $500,000 to $1 million each. Some have already been adopted by private buyers, while others are left to lounge around in the East Hampton auction house, waiting for some new master to come and claim them.
Listen—I know this lady is hoarding Basquiat, which is a fraught art history conversation for an entirely different day. At the moment, I’m simply fixated on the sheep.
Something about these sheep haunts me. Perhaps it’s the symbolic gesture of a Hollywood kingpin hoarding inanimate renderings of farm animals. Consider the power a farmer has over their sheep: to herd, to sheer, to butcher. They are animals most often depicted as helpless, a teensy bit dumb, and easily frightened. As a cultural motif, they populate stories about the “shepherd and their flock,” whether that be a no-good preacher leading a congregation astray, or a political leader hell-bent on global destruction through a totalitarian regime.
There’s an irony, also, in bringing the farmstead into the Beverly Hills palace. The sheep’s rough-hewn, slightly matted fur brings to mind rolling hills, and mud tracked through the washroom. You can almost hear the hound barking on the range, and the mother calling for her children to come back inside before it gets too dark out and the wolves come looking for supper.
Another aspect of DeGeneres’s sheep is that some are headless, as is common for Lallane’s sheep scultures. Looking at archival photos of the sheep... I’m reminded of a guillotine. Of beheadings. Of riots and unrest and the burning of palaces and institutions of power. Funny, how these pseudo-proletariat objects, rendered as literally mindless, are situated in the manses and villas of incredibly powerful people. Did DeGeneres see the guillotine too, when she looked out at her flock, beheaded, and wasting away in her living room? Perhaps they gave her nightmares, of fire and cold steel upon skin. Is that sheep’s blood on the carpet... or that of someone else? Haunting...