early and often

The Unlikely Star of the January 6 Hearings Is Eric Herschmann’s Panda

Photo: Reuters/YouTube

Eric Herschmann has provided some of the most important sound bites of the televised hearings of the House committee investigating the Capitol riot, all in front of his somewhat-cluttered collection of Pop art.

An attorney who worked in the White House during Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn the election, Herschmann was deposed by committee staff earlier this year on-camera while seated in front of several works of art in what appears to be his home or office. Over his right shoulder was a black baseball bat with the word “Justice” painted in white and three silver wigs fit for a founding father. To his left hung a large print of a panda partially submerged in water, gazing at the viewer like Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now. It looked into the camera as Herschmann recalled how Rudy Giuliani “seemed to admit” the plot to keep Trump in power couldn’t work and how, after January 6, he told John Eastman, the law professor who engineered the whole mess, to “get a great fucking criminal defense lawyer.”

Untitled (Sexy Panda), 2011 Photo: Rob Pruitt. Courtesy the artist, and 303 Gallery, New York

After a few hearings full of speculation, the mystery was solved by the early-pandemic protagonist Room Rater, the Twitter account that judges the décor of people doing TV hits frome home. Behold “Wild Thing,” produced by the American artist Rob Pruitt sometime between 2011 and 2015. The animal is a career fascination for Pruitt, who told Artforum in 2004, “The tragedy of the pandas is like a fable. We’ve destroyed their habitat, so hardly any survived. Now instead of real pandas there are panda plush toys and products. I wanted to implicate the viewer in the story and elicit guilt, like every painting of Jesus on the cross.” The work is also featured in the 50 Shades of Grey movie. (A source close to Herschmann told Politico he bought the piece way before its cameo in the campy romance.) The wigs are a piece called “Firing Squad” made by the Israeli artist Tal Frank. The bat, by Chilean artist Sebastian Errazuriz, comments on the crisis of domestic abuse in America, according to Errazuriz’s website.

After he found out last week that his piece was in the high-profile home office, Errazuriz posted on Instagram that it was “an honor to see my work in a historic moment on the wall of a collector and lawyer that embodies the ideal of the artwork. Someone who believes in defending Justice; regardless of being Republican or Democrat, even if it means losing your job.” Frank wrote over email that the context in which her “Firing Squad” is being shown is “quite an amusing coincidence.” Pruitt could not be reached for comment, though his 2018 sale of toilet paper with Trump’s face on it suggests he may appreciate what Herschmann has to say.

The Star of the Jan 6 Hearings Is Eric Herschmann’s Panda