Dodgers outfielder Gary Thomasson was a big disappointment in Japan — in 1980 he was signed to the Yomiuri Giants for a record-breaking sum, then nearly set a record for strikeouts before injuring his knee and retiring.
Artist Akasegawa Genpei took a strange inspiration from this: He defined a “Thomasson” as “an object, part of a building, that was maintained in good condition, but with no purpose, to the point of becoming a work of art.” For example, in Tokyo he’d noticed a well-maintained stairway with a blank wall at its top, and a ticket window that had been boarded up but whose tray had been assiduously permitted still to function.
Akasegawa’s colleague Chikuma Shobo eventually published a whole taxonomy of Thomassons: useless doorways, useless staircases, useless windows, doors to nowhere, senseless signs. Just like art, these items have no purpose in society, but they’re preserved with care, to the point that they seem to be exhibits in themselves. “However, these objects do not appear to have a creator, making them even more art-like than regular art.”