Peter Fischli and David Weiss - Evening & Day Editions London Wednesday, January 21, 2015 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Galerie & Edition Stähli, Zurich
    Private collection, Paris

  • Exhibited

    Zurich, Galerie & Edition Stähli, Plötzlich diese Übersicht, December 1981 - January 1982 (another example exhibited)
    Basel, Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Sichtbare Welt, Plötzlich diese Übersicht, Grosse Fragen-Kleine-Frage, 2000 (another example exhibited)
    London, Tate Gallery, Fischli & Weiss: Flowers and Questions, a retrospective, 11 Oct 2006 - 14 Jan 2007 (another example exhibited)
    New York, Carolina Nitsch Project Room, From Nature: Summer Group Show, 1 July - 8 August, 2008 (another example exhibited)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Since their first collaboration in 1979, Peter Fischli and David Weiss have continuously challenged the historically determined conventions of how art should be defined and produced. From using unlikely materials such as sausages, ham or unfired clay, to meticulously carving exact replicas of everyday objects from polyurethane foam, the artists have systematically inverted the values which ‘Art’ relies upon to define its own uniqueness from the rest of the material world.

    The current lot, Einheimischer Waldboden (Indigenous Forest Floor) comes from one of the artists' earliest collaborative projects: Plötzlich diese Übersicht (Suddenly this Overview), a group of around 200 unfired clay objects that were first exhibited in 1981 at Galerie & Edition Stähli in Zurich. In using this medium (normally associated with preliminary sculptural studies), Fischli & Weiss were able to produce a large group of works, quickly and cheaply, whilst simultaneously playing with the notions of what a finished artwork should be, presenting to the viewer a swathe of delicate items that are imbibed with a sense of romantic impermanence. Indeed many of these works have not survived due to the fragility of the unglazed and unfired clay.

    It is not just the material used that demonstrates the artists’ undercutting of traditional modes of representation; they also refuse to give the viewer a comprehensive, recognisable narrative. Taken as a whole, Plötzlich diese Übersicht presents its own microscopic model of the world. Initially, as Weiss stated, “The intention was to accumulate various important and unimportant events in the history of mankind, and of the planet”. However not all the objects included were of narrative significance as Weiss further explains, “after five or six weeks we ended up with things like bread, because we had enough of stories and wanted to make single objects…without any metaphoric or symbolic meaning.”

    In place of a singular, heroic sculpture in either marble or bronze, we have instead an amalgamation of small, domestic-scale works that reject both traditional, commemorative materials, and the notion of a cohesive narrative. According to Fischli “the viewer cannot simultaneously take all the sculptures or all the stories into account…The title [overview] describes the opposite of what is actually the case: the confusion and the swamp and the simultaneity of these things.” The clay objects oscillate between opposing ideas to tell their own individual stories, from the witty scene of Herr and Frau Einstein shortly after the conception of their son, Albert, to the commonplace loaves of bread and tea-sets (which belie the artists’ fascination with the ordinary) and finally to something in between: the playful slice of a child-like imagination that is Einheimischer Waldboden.

    There is a magical and almost hallucinatory quality to this work, which recreates a forest floor complete with mushrooms, leaf and log. Einheimischer Waldboden is rendered much in the same way as a child might create these objects, with sketchy, cartoon-like lines delineating the leaf and log, fists of clay for the mushroom stumps and the caps made by pressing a ball of clay against the artist's palm (which also creates the ‘signature’). In looking at this work we enter the child’s mind and suddenly the mushrooms are a great forest of trees waiting to be explored. Yet we are simultaneously aware of the physical impressions the artist's fingers have left in the clay and cannot forget the smallness of this object that was once cradled in their hands. The gentle humour and superficial visual simplicity of this work belies the nostalgia of the scene and the artists' tenderness towards their material.


Einheimischer Waldboden (Indigenous Forest Floor), from Plötzlich diese Übersicht (Suddenly this Overview)

Unique hand-formed unfired clay sculpture, comprised of three mushrooms, leaf, and log, with accompanying book (1st edition),
8.6 x 16.3 x 14.5 cm (3 3/8 x 6 3/8 x 5 3/4 in.)
signed and numbered 13/20 on the last page of the accompanying book in blue and black ink respectively (there were also a number of artist's proofs), published by the artists.

£10,000 - 15,000 

Sold for £16,250

Contact Specialist
Robert Kennan
Head of Sale, Editions
+44 207 318 4075

Evening & Day Editions

London Auction 22 January 2015 2pm & 6pm