Franz West - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Wednesday, March 6, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Gagosian Gallery, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    New York, Gagosian Gallery, Franz West, Passstuecke, 18 March - 26 March 2008, pl. 15 (illustrated, titled Beggy)
    Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Red over Yellow, 21 June - 2 December 2017, pp. 13, 96, 98, 199 (illustrated, pp. 6, 13, 23, 94, 97, 99, 110, 124, 153, 169, 192)

  • Catalogue Essay

    An organic and dialogical sculpture composed of plaster, metal, gauze and paint, Franz West’s Schnorre (Beggy), 1982-83, is replete with corporal references. Emblematic of the artist’s tactile and inviting works, the present sculpture actively engages the viewer, prompting both physical and cognitive examination. Haptic and contorted, Schnorre departs from any classical notion of canonical sculpture. As part of the artist’s Passstücke (Adaptives), it exists alongside a cycle of unrecognisable objects that emerged in the mid-1970s and initiated West’s sculptural output.

    Spanning over forty years, West’s involvement in major international exhibitions – including his current retrospective at Tate Modern, London, his participation in the 44th Venice Biennale in 1990, Documenta IX in 1992 and Documenta X in 1997 – is a testament to his poignant contribution to the canon of contemporary art. Departing from the smooth, well-measured and often geometric forms associated with the vocabulary of modern sculpture, the artist’s compositions paved a new course for sculptural production in the 1980s. Merging papier-mâché and found objects, Schnorre perfectly typifies West’s distinct departure from the monumental stature of twentieth century sculpture.

    Moving away from the flattened, figurative surfaces that pervaded much of West’s oeuvre before his Passstücke, Schnorre is intrinsically abstract and amorphous, left only to be completed by the viewer’s perspective. Actively rejecting traditional modes of perception, the aesthetic, psychological and physical means which are traditionally designed to impact the viewer, the present work solicits discreet reflection and is exemplary of West’s capacity to destabilise the supposed ‘untouchable and sacrosanct’ facets of artistic production (Daniel Birnbaum, ‘A thousand words: Franz West’, Artforum, New York, February 1999, p. 84). As noted by Christine Macel, ‘The Passstücke represent a new aesthetic that eschews all ideas of perfection or beauty in favour of the dirty, the wonky and even the deceptive. Despite this anti-aesthetic intention in which the ‘ugly’ ends up producing a feeling of attraction – a reversal at which West always excelled’ (Christine Macel, Franz West, exh. cat., Tate Modern, London, 2018, p. 23).

    An anti-sculpture of sorts, the present work allows form, surface and the viewer’s movements to determine its setting and mechanisms. Having been positioned on a plinth by the artist in 2008, the object stood baseless until this date, eschewing any known categorisation. At the junction between a transportable everyday item and a formal sculpture, Schnorre takes inspiration from the African objects West’s uncle sold. ‘I looked at masks and wands, and I thought to myself that one should wear them and make movements with them’ (Franz West, quoted in Johannes Schlebrügge and Ines Turian eds., Franz West. Gesammelte Gespräche und Interviews, Cologne, 2005, p. 156). A point of departure for his Passstücke, ‘West retained his unorthodox position as a sculptor of in-between forms’ (Robert Fleck, Brice Curiger and Neal Benezra, Franz West, London, 1999, p. 28).

    Central to West’s practice are the artist’s titles and descriptions, perplexingly assigned in various languages – German, English and French among others. Herein, the title Schnorre identifies the object as a scrounger or beggar in German; a linguistic designation only to be reified by Schnorre’s appearance, which visually dissects the familiar form of a headpiece atop its constitutive metal pole, thus playing on the action of begging and collecting change in a hat. Drawing closely on Ludwig Wittgenstein’s ‘Philosophical Investigations’, 1953, West further conveys the importance of naming a work by noting that ‘[Wittgenstein] compared the use of language to the use of tools such as hammers and nails. He maintained that the meaning of a word is its use and advanced the idea of language games. If these tools were abstract, then they were understood as art’ (Franz West, in conversation with Roxana Marcoci, ‘Franz West’, MoMA, online).

    Awash with contradictions, Schnorre represents the ultimate non-formalist work, synthesising art forms in a way that recalls the concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk (total work of art). West adroitly harnesses the object’s liminality, toying with titles, found objects, and the in-between nature of sculpture as static art, in ways that successfully bridge the casual and the dysfunctional. Exemplary of West’s wry wit, Schnorre allows chaos to reign, earnestly challenging conventional understandings of the sculptural medium as a stationary entity.

Property from an Important European Collection



painted and plastered metal pole, gauze and hat, on painted wooden base
264 x 99 x 83 cm (103 7/8 x 38 7/8 x 32 5/8 in.)
Executed in 1982-83.

£150,000 - 200,000 ‡ ♠

Sold for £162,500

Contact Specialist
Rosanna Widén
Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4060

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 7 March 2019