Thomas Schütte, ‘United Enemies (A Play in Ten Scenes)’, 1994, Phillips

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Each 66.5 x 96 cm (26 1/8 x 37 3/4 in.)

From the Catalogue:
Unnerving and intriguing, Thomas Schütte’s United Enemies (A play in Ten Scenes) is exemplary of the artist’s experiments with the expressive potential of the human form. From his series of sculptures and photographs concerned with mortality and the curiosity of humanity, the ghoul-like figures dramatically present the distorted extremes of humanity. With exaggerated features and extravagant facial gestures, the figures comment on the paradoxical nature of the human condition, channelling the 17th and 18th century fascination with the excesses of emotion and facial expression. The prints, based upon the sculptures, are exemplary of the interwoven nature of the artist’s multi-disciplinary and varied oeuvre. Formed in malleable Fimo polymer modelling clay, the artist dressed the modest figures in cloth before binding them together with cord. Placing each pair against a lit background, Schütte photographed the spirits before enlarging the image and creating his series of prints. The artist subsequently added a fleck of white pigment to the iris of each eye, emphasising the intriguing hollowness of each haunting figure. In United Enemies: A Play in Ten Scenes, the artist builds cinematographic settings, choreographing a production of sorts with his puppet theatre arranged with lights and a stage.

Describing the forms as a ‘definitive model for a permanent situation’ (Thomas Schütte, quoted in Hans Ulrich Obrist, ‘Reality Production: Thomas Schütte’, Mousse Magazine, no. 28, April–May 2011, online), the artist considered his United Enemies (A Play in Ten Scenes) an investigation into the novelty of relation and the interaction between friends and enemies. From another realm, yet formed to question the marvel of human existence, the inhuman figures from Schütte’s whimsical oeuvre exude unnerving yet exuberant agony.

Having studied under Gerhard Richter and Fritz Schwegler at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, Schütte became entwined in fundamental debates surrounding sculpture in the 1970s. Following this, concerned with the legacies of conceptualism and minimalism, the artist studied classical sculpture in Rome, ascribing some of his inspiration to busts of Roman portraits in the Capitoline Museum. The ashen, hairless figures presented in Schütte’s prints juxtapose the familiar and individual with the immense. Exuding mortality and packed with human expression, the present work explores symbolic artistic customs whilst interrogating the emotion of human relation.
Courtesy of Phillips

Signature: each signed, numbered and dated 'Thomas Schütte 1994 35/35' lower right margin

Stuttgart, Württembergischer Kunstverein; Hamburger Kunsthalle, THOMAS SCHÜTTE: Figur, 6 May - 16 October 1994, p. 71 (another example exhibited and illustrated, p. 73)
Tokyo, Wako Works of Art, Thomas Schütte, 1995, pp. 3-15 (another example exhibited and illustrated)
Leeds, Bowes Museum, Private View: Contemporary Art, 4 May- 28 July 1996, pp. 41, 92 (another example exhibited and illustrated)
Seattle, Henry Art Gallery, Surrogate: The Figure in Contemporary Sculpture and Photography, 1998-1999 (another example exhibited)
Krefeld, Kaiser Wilhem Museum; Kunsthalle Nurnberg, Artist’s Proof Graphical/Photographical Works from the 60s to the 90s, 6 September 1998 – 7 March 1999, p. 46, 155-159 (another example exhibited and illustrated)
Kunstmuseum Winterthur; Musée de Grenoble; Dusseldorf, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Thomas Schütte, Kreuzzug, 2 June 2003 – 7 August 2004, p. 61 (illustrated)
London, Faggionato Fine Arts, Thomas Schütte: United Enemies, 2009 (another example exhibited)
Los Angeles, Maloney Fine Art, Thomas Schütte. United Enemies: A Play in Ten Scenes, 2010 (another example exhibited)
Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Thomas Schütte: Hindsight, 2010, pp. 154-155, 198 (another example illustrated and exhibited, p. 151)
New York, Skarstedt Gallery, Thomas Schütte. Selected Works, 30 September - 30 October 2010 (another example exhibited)

Kunstforum Bd., no. 128, October - December 1994, p. 260 (another example illustrated)
Das Kunst-Bulletin, no. 10, October 1994, p. 16 (another example illustrated)
Art in America, no. 5, May 1995, p. 107 (another example illustrated)
Julian Heynen, James Lingwood and Angela Vettese, Thomas Schütte, London, 1998, pp. 26-27 (another example illustrated)
Thomas Schütte, exh. cat., Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, 1998, pp. 26-28 and 95 (another example illustrated on the cover)
Parkett, no. 47, Zurich, 1996, p. 98 (another example illustrated)
Wolfsburg, Collected Works 1: Contemporary Art since 1968, exh. cat., Kunstmuseum, Wolfsburg, 1999, pp. 390-391 (another example illustrated)
Thomas Schütte, exh. cat., Sammlung Goetz, Munich, 2001, pp. 53-55 (another example illustrated)
Ulrich Loock, Thomas Schütte; Herausgegeben von der Friedrich Christian Flick Collection, Cologne, 2004, no. 23, pp. 123- 125 (another example illustrated)

Wako Works of Art, Tokyo
Private Collection (acquired from the above)
Acquired from the above by the present owner

About Thomas Schütte

Since the late 1970s—when he studied with renowned German artist Gerhard Richter—Thomas Schütte has been subverting traditional art historical genres through his eclectic output of sculptures, prints, installations, drawings, watercolors, and photographs. Schütte makes familiar forms of expression, like memorial portraiture and figurative sculpture, strange through evocative, often disturbing alterations, such as in his treatment of the female nude in his “Bronzefrauen” series (Bronze Women, 1999-ongoing) where figurative shapes morph into abstract or mutant forms, or his “Alte Freunde” series, in which the subjects’ despondent expressions highlight the vulnerability of the individual against the cruelty and complexity of the vast world. Through his work he explores the human condition, offering a critical perspective on social, cultural, and political issues and visually eloquent commentary on memory, loss, and the difficulty of memorializing the past.

German, b. 1954, Oldenburg, Germany, based in Düsseldorf, Germany