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  • Provenance

    Galerie Chantal Crousel

  • Exhibited

    Shenzen, 7th Shenzhen Sculpture Biennale, 12 May–31 August 2012

  • Catalogue Essay

    Through processes of disassembly and reassembly, Danh Vo explores the relations between space, memory and identity. He is interested in the associative weight of objects, and in how their significations can both endure and mutate. A curatorial sensibility characterises much of his work; he collects, appropriates and rearranges, drawing upon and challenging established narratives.

    When he was four, Vo and his family fled Vietnam, settling in Denmark in the late 1970s. Having studied art at the Kongelige Danske Kunstakademie, he later moved to Frankfurt and is now based in Berlin. A correlative displacement suffuses his art; as Adrian Searle puts it 'everything in his work has a story at least as complicated as his own.' (Adrian Searle, ‘Art Among The Ruins: Danh Vo’s Perverse Empire,' The Guardian, 21 January 2015). Previous pieces have seen him remove and exhibit the engine from his father’s Mercedes Benz (Das Beste oder Nichts, 2010) as well as pull apart and rearrange chairs belonging to a former U.S. president (Two Kennedy Administration Cabinet Room Chairs, 2013). He is interested in the process of dispersion; by isolating and re-envisaging parts, he opens space for revelation and renewed perspectives on historical and individual narratives.

    We The People, of which the present lot is a constituent part, shares this interest in creative dislocation. Completed over several years, the project saw Vo commission a replica of Frederic August Bartholdi’s Statue of Liberty cast in two millimetre thick copper. However, unlike the original, Vo’s simulacrum does not exist as a complete whole but rather as a series of fragments. These pieces, of which there are around 250, are now spread around the world.

    Although a definitive piece of American iconography, the history of the original structure reveals an international genealogy. It was created in France and subsequently shipped to America to mark the nation’s success in the Civil War. ‘We The People’ shares in and multiplies this international genesis; conceived in Germany, it was made in Shanghai, and shipped worldwide. The geographic dispersal of the statue finds equivalence in a dispersal of meaning. Vo considers it 'a project that should evoke discussion in the place that it is exhibited.' (Danh Vo in Kirthana Ramisetti, ‘Exhibition in New York Gives New Perspective on Statue of Liberty,' Wall Street Journal, 15 May 2014). The work challenges the notion of centralised meaning, and invites reformulations of the statue’s preexisting significations; these, it suggests, may vary with context.

    The present lot, like most fragments of We The People, maps the folds of Lady Liberty’s dress. It is in these less immediately recognisable pieces that the artist himself takes particular interest. As he relates, 'people are always thinking about something figurative, like the flame, or whatever is the so-called icon … I never look at these kinds of things.’ (Danh Vo in Benjamin Sutton, ‘Danh Vo Cuts the Statue of Liberty Down to Size,' Artnet News, 27 May 2014). The individual sculpture magnifies a prosaic detail, transforming it into a whole in its own right. Yet it remains part of a larger totality; scattered across the globe are the pieces to which it might be adjoined.

    It is in these various complexities that Vo is interested. The sculpture positions itself within histories of every scale from the local to the international, resisting any kind of definitive meaning. It is an integral piece of his oeuvre: part of a continued exploration of the potential for context to shape understanding.

Ο52

We the People (detail), Element #D2

2011-2013
copper
206.7 x 239.5 x 101.4 cm (81 3/8 x 94 1/4 x 39 7/8 in.)

Estimate
£120,000 - 180,000 ‡ ♠

Sold for £194,500

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
[email protected]
+44 207 318 4063

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London 29 June 2015 7pm