Thomas Schütte - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Wednesday, June 28, 2017 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Galleria Tucci Russo, Turin
    Private Collection, Italy
    Private Collection, Europe

  • Catalogue Essay

    Playful and reflective, Thomas Schütte’s Kleiner Geist is a fanciful creature celebrating one of the artist’s most favoured and celebrated subjects. Transporting the observer towards the ethereal, the lively spirit is from another realm, the realm of Schütte’s exhaustive and productive imagination. Engaging with form and filled with human expression, the theatrical creature has emerged directly from the stage for which he was created. Forever returning to his beloved subject of ghost-like creatures, the work recalls the spirit of Schütte’s United Enemies, conceived in 1992, and the later Große Geister, 1996. These works, preoccupied with an inhuman essence, explore vast alterations in scale and juxtapose the familiar and individual with the immense.
    Kleiner Geist does not stem from an abstract idea of realism but rather from experimentations with the possibilities of particular materials and methods of creation. Afforded non-specific helpless gestures, striding forward or pointing to the sky, each has a different stance; the figures are left in a liminal state and are devoid of literary potential. The dialogue between augmented dimensionality and fragility is controlled, with Schütte exploring the co-existence of the mythical and the sinister. Despite his minimal facial features, the spirit does not lack expression. The figure’s stance and subtle features embody the co-existence of humour and despondency. The unnerving yet exuberant figure is human yet otherworldly, exemplary of Thomas Schütte’s playful oeuvre and absolute mastery of materials.
    Covertly edifying the viewer, the divine creature was conceived following discussions with Richard Deacon concerning ‘scale, monuments, man and animal, man and man, man and light, space and colour and so on…’ (Thomas Schütte in Matthias Winzen, ed., Siemens Kulturprogramm, Ostfildern, 1997, p. 111) whilst planning the collaborative show Them and Us at Lisson Gallery in 1995. Twelve fantastical scenes were presented: Schütte’s dramatic spirits interacted with Deacon’s animal hair sculptures. Examining the constant playful relationship between people and sculptural objects, explicitly separated through the title ‘Them and Us’, scenes of artistic self-reflection emerged; the figures ‘always relate to their surroundings, to the space, to the viewer, to each other’ (ibid). Pairing empty expression with active body language, the artist brings the mythical nature of the spirits to light.
    In 1973, studying under Fritz Schwegler and Gerhard Richter at the Dusseldorf Academy, Schütte, with his individualistic style, soon became involved in the larger debate surrounding sculpture. Engrossing himself in the legacies of minimalism and conceptualism, in 1992 Schütte explored classical sculpture in Rome, looking to question symbolic artistic customs and explore emotive renderings of the human figure. Occupying Schütte’s creative output between 1995 and 2004, the Kleine Geister were followed by their monumental descendants, the Große Geister which can be found in the permanent collections of prominent museums, such as the Museum of Modern Art Chicago, the Centre Georges Pompidou and the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg.
    Whimsical and mysterious, Kleiner Geist, with its distinctive stance belongs to a group of 100 definitive works by Thomas Schütte, each unique and cast in aluminium or Polyester. Through the manipulation and twisting of malleable wax laces, Schütte created these otherworldly beings. Immersed in harder liquid wax and cast in mirror-finished aluminium, the spirit highlights the artist’s experimentation with methods of creation. Exposed drips of wax, shining from the torso of the creature, afford the spirit a character of its own and demonstrate the artist’s preoccupation with moulding materials intuitively, by ‘thinking with one’s thumbs’ (Thomas Schütte in Matthias Winzen, ed., ‘Collect Yourself. Ein Gespräch mit Thomas Schütte,‘ Kunst Bulletin Zurich, no. 10, October 1994, p. 18). Mirroring the malleable nature of wax and the artist's preoccupation with materials, Urs Fischer’s Untitled (The Rape of the Sabine Women) echoes the spirit of Schütte’s mystical beings. Both voyeuristic, Kleiner Geist and Untitled (The Rape of the Sabine Women), question the relationship between the viewer and the space they inhabit.


Kleiner Geist

47 x 22.5 x 20 cm (18 1/2 x 8 7/8 x 7 7/8 in.)
Executed in 1995, this work is unique.

£300,000 - 500,000 

Sold for £389,000

Contact Specialist
Henry Highley
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4061

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 29 June 2017