Thomas Schütte - Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Tuesday, October 11, 2011 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Tucci Russo, Turin

  • Exhibited

    Turin, Tucci Russo, Thomas Schütte, 1995

  • Catalogue Essay

    “I did not find them cruel, I just found them funny” Thomas Schütte

    The human figure has long been a central and recurring theme in Thomas Schütte’s work. Although known for his sculpture in particular, Schütte’s widely diverse practice ranges from drawing to photography to large-scale outdoor works. His eclectic approach allows him to continuously apply fresh perspectives to his work. Schütte’s career thus far has been widely celebrated, with a three-part series of exhibitions at the Dia Art Foundation, New York, 1998–2000, his Golden Lion award for best artist at the Venice Biennale in 2005, and his commission for the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square, London in 2007.

    United Enemy (1995) is from the series United Enemies, made between 1993 and 1997. This series comprises over 30 works with figures made out of Fimo modelling clay and ‘dressed’ in various fabrics and displayed under glass domes. Mostly, the works in this series consist of a pair of figures bound together; there are also a small number of three-figure works and, like the present work, a few single figures. These doll-like grotesques, or puppets as the artist refers to them, extend a long tradition of picturing the grotesque – from medieval gargoyles to the Northern Renaissance painter Quinten Massys, through to the nineteenth century and Daumier’s caricatures of the Célèbrités du Juste Milieu, to today with the work of Schütte and Jake & Dinos Chapman. Yet on closer inspection of United Enemy, the rounded cheeks, button nose and worn face suggest the comical features of an elderly character, one that could almost be described as kindly. “I did not find them cruel, I just found them funny” Schütte states.

    The United Enemies series was partly influenced by the time Schütte spent in Rome in 1992. The figures themselves can hardly be said to be classical in form but the expressions are no doubt a by-product of Schütte’s daily exposure to the busts and figures that fill the streets and line the walls of galleries and museums. It is interesting to note too that, at that time, Italy’s political system was under investigation by the Mani pulite or Clean Hands, which exposed the far-reaching corruption that was rife throughout the country’s ruling elite. While United Enemy is not a caricature of an individual politician, it perhaps signifies a wider revulsion at the defrauding of the public and the wholesale corruption that enabled it.


United Enemy

Fimo, fabric, wood, glass and PVC.
189.5 × 25 × 25 cm (74 1/2 × 9 3/4 × 9 3/4 in).
Signed and dated ‘Th. Schütte 1995’ on the base.

£300,000 - 500,000 

Sold for £481,250

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

12 October 2011