8 Artworks That Self-Destruct
Larger Wooden Elements each 7 1/4 x 80 x 3/4 in. (18.4 x 203.2 x 1.9 cm.)
Smaller Wooden Elements each 1 3/4 x 79 x 3/4 in. (4.4 x 200.7 x 1.9 cm.)
Anchors each 1 5/8 x 1/4 x 1/4 in. (4.1 x .6 x .6 cm.)
Installation dimensions variable
From the Catalogue:
The early 1990s marked a return to the studio for collaborative Swiss art duo Peter Fischli and David Weiss, after having spent the previous years working on public projects and other ventures. This return to their craft resulted in the renowned series of polyurethane installations, to which the present lot belongs. Handmade and each uniquely carved, these polyurethane objects are meant to mimic found, household items, including but not limited to various cleaning supplies, wooden pallets, pieces of hardware and other functional tools. The first of these installations was unveiled at the artists’ exhibition organized by the Forum Junge Kunst in Zug, Switzerland, with the work Untitled Room from 1991, featuring a pre-fabricated garage filled with polyurethane objects. These objects blended in with the space, leaned up casually against the wall as if left in haste, meant to produce a sort of trompe l’oeil effect.
In the present lot from this period of the artsits’ prolific oeuvre, Fischli and Weiss have fabricated a group of sculpted, painted objects including unevenly splattered wooden planks and dowels, and small anchors painted orange. Lying against the gallery floor in apparent disarray, the work lends the impression that the space inhabited is under construction, thus creating an expert illusion with seemingly functional objects. In fact, it was beginning in the year of this work’s creation in 1993 that the artists began to use higher-quality grades of polyurethane foam and develop new techniques for carving and painting, all in an attempt to control the illusion better. In their apparent purpose, Fischli and Weiss’s polyurethane objects recall the Duchampian readymade, yet unlike the readymade, their uselessness lies at the core of their identity, a quality that is completely controlled by the artists’ meticulous creative process. As Peter Fischli once explained in response to this connection, “People always reference the idea of the Readymade here, but our works are in a way the complete opposite of the Readymade—we have to make them, we have to make them ready!” (Peter Fischli, quoted in Andrew Maerkle, “The Techne of Schadenfreude: Part I. Gentlemen Don’t Work with Their Hands”, Art iT, November 2010, online)
—Courtesy of Phillips
David Zwirner Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Peter Fischli and David Weiss collaborated on projects that variously combined, rearranged, and manipulated quotidian experiences into unexpected configurations across mediums. Executed in sculpture, film, and photography—and combinations thereof—the duo's work conveniently and playfully avoided any distinction between high and low art and materials. Their practice is best known—and perhaps best exemplified—by the film The Way Things Go (1987), for which the pair orchestrated a series of improbable Rube Goldberg-esque arrangements of household objects and studio detritus, documenting the mechanisms in their whimsical unfolding.
Swiss, 1952 and 1946 - 2012, Zurich, Switzerland, based in Zurich, Switzerland
8 Artworks That Self-Destruct
Food Photography Didn’t Start on Instagram—Here’s Its 170-Year History
My Highlights from The Armory Show 2014