Peter Fischli and David Weiss - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale - Afternoon Session New York Wednesday, November 15, 2017 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    David Zwirner Gallery, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    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)



painted polyurethane, in 11 parts
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

Executed circa 1993-1994.

$60,000 - 80,000 

Sold for $72,500

Contact Specialist
Rebekah Bowling
Head of Day Sale, Afternoon Session
New York
+ 1 212 940 1250

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale - Afternoon Session

New York Auction 15 November 2017