Atelier Van Lieshout - Design London Wednesday, April 29, 2009 | Phillips

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  • Literature

    Meghan Dailey, 'In the Studio', Art + Auction, April 2008, p. 60; Sophie Lovell, Limited Edition: Prototypes, One-Offs and Design Art Furniture, Basel, 2009, p. 200

  • Catalogue Essay

    In 2001, Dutch art practice Atelier Van Lieshout (AVL) established ‘AVL-Ville’, an anarchic free state in the port of Rotterdam. The village, situated on the atelier’s grounds at Keilestraat 43, included mobile homes, a greenhouse, energy plant, arsenal, and Hall of Delights. Article 7 of the attendant Constitution stated: “Everyone has the right to immunity in privacy and artistic lifestyle…” One might presume ‘immunity’ meant ‘special privilege’, although in ‘AVL-Ville’ all participants were equal and all rights common. Despite or perhaps because of AVL’s collaborative nature, seclusion has remained an abiding concern. Since founding AVL in 1995, Joep Van Lieshout has fixated on enclosed, private spaces: hutches, capsules, caravans, 'claustrophobic living units'. Nothing is more private—and sometimes claustrophobic—than the hermetic confines of our own heads. Except perhaps death. And what is more common than that? In the case of the present lot, ‘Sensory Deprivation Skull’ (2007), everyone can sit still in shadow. In her introduction to Atelier Van Lieshout, Jennifer Allen writes: “AVL strictly avoids all displays of modesty, restraint and prudery, especially in relation to bodily activities: from defecating to having sex.” Dying might be the most intimate activity of them all. AVL has long fixated on biological functions, at times by building enlarged and inhabitable body parts: ‘Wombhouse’ (2004), ‘BarRectum’ (2005), and a succession of craniums including ‘Study Skull’ (1996), ‘Workskull’ (2005), and ‘Wellness Skull’ (2007). As with the present lot, AVL’s outsize memento mori are made of reinforced fibreglass. More durable than bone, it’s a peculiar choice of material to remind us of our own impermanence, but then, acknowledging death is easier than accepting it. Joep van Lieshout writes (somewhat elliptically): “The heavenly power is the big unknown, the death of the hereafter, the skull of physical shell of the mind.” Sitting in AVL’s frame of mind, one not only has presence of mind, one becomes the present mind, all the while bearing death in mind, and it you.


‘Sensory Deprivation Skull’

Reinforced fibreglass. 
138.4 x 109.2 x 147.3 cm. (54 1/2 x 43 x 58 in.)
Number four from an edition of ten. Underside with paper label with signature and ‘4 / 10/AVL 001749’.

£30,000 - 40,000 

Sold for £46,850


30 Apr 2009, 2pm