Ruth Asawa Joins Zombie Cy Twombly Among the Artistic Undead

Ruth Asawa.
Photo: Courtesy

Remember the good old days back in July 2014 when that amusing thing happened where people were tweeting that Cy Twombly had died? It would have been really sad to lose such an iconic artist, except that Twombly had been dead since 2011.

Someone, it seemed, must have gotten hold of the New York Times obituary for the artist and, without noting the dateline, taken the news to be, well, news. Even Phillips auction house tweeted a link to the story, lending it a certain institutional imprimatur (until the tweet was deleted).

Wags all over the web started talking about Zombie Cy Twombly.

Well, the latest candidate for undead artist is Ruth Asawa, whose New York Times obituary is suddenly making the rounds on Facebook and Twitter, even though she died two years ago this month.


We checked with the Times for any possible technical explanation, but according to Brad Kagawa, VP of technology, publishing systems, there’s no obvious reason that the article should have resurfaced.

It’s possible that it’s not pure happenstance, since she’s back in the news this month. The Ruth Asawa San Francisco High School of the Arts, it was recently reported, will offer an LGBT history class to students this fall. According to the teacher, it’s the first time a public school has offered such a course (though private schools have done so). Perhaps this led to some Googling and reckless obituary-posting.

Ruth-Asawa-1Death and mortality are not really that funny, and losing a treasured artist is not a humorous thing. But runaway misunderstandings on the internet certainly are.

Unfortunately, Boston ICA employee Kris Wilton, on Twitter, has blown the whistle. “#Art newsers take note,” she tweeted today. “That Ruth Asawa obit that’s floating around today is from 2013.”

Well, shoot. We were hoping for the full Zombie Twombly treatment.

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