The coffee cup is the canvas into which we pour our very soul, and our very coffee. It is the means by which the world discerns our feelings about mornings and Mondays, our allegiances to sports teams and Ziggy, and the vast, colorful history of conferences we attended. But all too rarely is the coffee cup used to express the great human tragedy, except for Ziggy. So at last, Yoko Ono has come forward to fill this neglected artistic niche, and fill your coffee mug with sadness. You can also put tea in it.
Ono has collaborated with the Italian coffee company Illy on a collection called “Yoko Ono: Mended Cups,” to be released in conjunction with her upcoming show at the Museum of Modern Art. You (probably) won’t be able to drink out of those pieces, but you can from these cups inspired by the Japanese art of Kintsugi, where cracked pottery is repaired with lacquer mixed with gold. The cups are also inspired by the depressed grandmother’s art of bumming you out, with each one bearing a message reminding of you some tragic historical event while you eat breakfast.
Those messages are written in Ono’s handwriting on accompanying saucers, letting you know, for example, “This cup was broken in My Lai on March 16th, 1968,” during the My Lai Massacre. Other grim reminders of man’s capacity for inflicting pain that you can sip from include cups commemorating the Nanking Massacre, the Dresden bombing, and Hiroshima. All together they form a rich, beverage-holding tapestry that captures the devastation of war, sort of like the Guernica of coffee cups—particularly the coffee cup that mentions Guernica. It’s also simply rich, with a price tag of $250 for the set.
Still, Ono also allows for peace with a single, unblemished cup promising, “This cup will never be broken as it is under your protection.” This cup is available separately, for the price of $40. That way, when you inevitably drop it in the dishwasher, you will experience a small taste of what Hiroshima felt like.
Notably, among the six world-shaking tragedies Ono chose to highlight is December 8, 1980, the date John Lennon was assassinated. That cup is now Ono’s saddest artwork honoring her late husband since she made him a hoodie with a butt on it. But you couldn’t drink out of that.