Thomas Schütte - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Sunday, November 8, 2015 | Phillips

Create your first list.

Select an existing list or create a new list to share and manage lots you follow.

  • Provenance

    Produzentengalerie, Hamburg
    Phillips de Pury & Company, New York, Contemporary Art Part I, May 11, 2006, lot 69
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Literature

    Rubell Family Collection: Highlights & Artists' Writings Volume 1, Miami, 2014, p. 98 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “You can make real cinema by placing things so that people can move through the space properly – so that the exhibition visitors become actors themselves.” Thomas Schütte, 2011

    Thomas Schütte’s influence on the landscape of contemporary art cannot be understated. Having experimented in a variety of media, including photography, painting, drawing and sculpture, he has created an oeuvre that is as profound as it is expansive. Disregarding institutionalized modes of classification he continuously sought to test his limits in a prodigious effort to establish a singular artistic lexicon, ultimately generating a conversation among his objects, materials and his audience. The present lot Maschine, 1993 is no exception to his provocative artistic tendencies. Through its mechanized kinetic energy and the astounding detail in which the figures are rendered, Maschine is situated at the intersection of the majestic and the bizarre, of farce and misfortune, as the figures transcend their outlandishness and are subjected to the direction of much greater authority. As we are forced to reckon with the work’s off-putting dynamic, Schütte has commented, “The things you cannot talk about-- these are essential. I believe that material, form and color have their own language that cannot be translated. Direct experience is much more touching than media, photographs and so on” (Thomas Schütte, Thomas Schütte, London, 1998, p. 22)

    In the present lot, Schütte continues his investigation of the concept developed in his United Enemies series, originating during his residency spent in Italy in a tense political climate in which multiple politicians were jailed for corruption. The figures, swathed in multi-colored robes bound at the waist, are not intended to be in the likeness of any person, but rather are universal in their representation. Exceptionally abstracted to suggest enormous tension, their faces are wrinkled, brows furrowed, lips pursed, all intimating at the abating power of the ruling class. Of the series, the artist explains, "…With these (sculptures) the approach towards the diversity of figurative sculpture takes the form of detailed exaggerated physiognomies, even the distortion of the caricature. The sculptures go beyond the caricature and the grotesque. We are presented with barely likeable types and characters who, themselves powerful, seem molded by larger powers." (Ibid., p. 63) At differing levels, the figures stand resolutely atop their steel armature, engaged in a silent exchange, perpetually in pursuit of the other as the arms rotate them away.

    The artist’s propensity to push the boundaries of the themes within his work and his use of media as a whole can certainly be understood as a symptom of his education under his “merciless” teacher, Gerhard Richter. Schütte has reflected, “He [Richter] was definitely the main influence on how I work. He had the approach that if you can’t continue in one direction, you can switch to another. If I’m stuck, I don’t spend my weeks in misery, I change direction, switching between problems, media or scale. What I learned from Richter is that even with a limited field you can create a rich story with one’s work, if you work every day” (Thomas Schütte, “Judgement days”, Tate Etc., no. 23, 2011). In Maschine, the schematic means are at once elementary and refined, stratified expressions of production consistently referencing the audience to our role as both viewer and participant.

Property from an Important Private Collection



4 wax figures, wood, fabric, metal armature, electric motor and rubber gasket
overall dimensions 71 ¼ x 134 x 122 in. (180.9 x 340.4 x 309.9 cm)
each figure 16 ¼ x 6 x 7 in. (41.3 x 15.2 x 17.8 cm)

$1,800,000 - 2,500,000 

Sold for $1,805,000

Contact Specialist
Kate Bryan
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+ 1 212 940 1267

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 8 November 2015 7pm