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  • Provenance

    Eva Presenhuber, Zurich

  • Catalogue Essay

    Constantly challenging the art world, Urs Fischer is an artist whose work is truly contemporary. Born in Switzerland, the artist currently lives and works in New York, exploring a range of styles and materials in his multidisciplinary work. Arguably, his sculptures earned Fischer his celebrated name; he gives them a sense of actuality through their movement and mortality, as in his melting wax sculptures, or through representing real, everyday objects. The present lot is one of Fischer’s archetypal readymade sculptures, in which the artist takes a commonplace item, such as a washing machine or refrigerator, and turns it into high art. These works are instantly recognisable as real household objects, giving them a sense of existence; however, Fischer raises them up for contemplation, thus blurring the lines between ordinary articles and sculpture.

    Fischer’s use of the readymade is a reference to the Dada movement, in which artists used found objects to create their sculptures. Duchamp famously argued that his urinal, Fountain (1917) should be considered art for its sculptural qualities. Like these artists, Fischer sees these virtues in humdrum objects and elevates them to sculpture, urging the viewer to question what constitutes as art. The present lot, Cutting a Cake with a Hammer (2000), shows a simple refrigerator ajar with a cat curiously peeking inside. Only the back of the cat is visible, as if it is caught in the moment of discovering and entering the refrigerator, thereby giving the piece a natural, transient feel. The scene is familiar and banal; the refrigerator is plain and appears empty and the cat itself is perhaps the most domestic of all animals. However, Fischer depicts the piece entirely in white, consequently stripping it of its naturalistic appearance. Instead, this gives it a sculptural quality, reaffirming the replicated nature of the cat and suggesting uniformity in material as well as colour.

    Despite representing trite, self explanatory objects, Fischer still manages to elicit questions. The viewer is encouraged to query the purpose of his works, the reason he has chosen such commonplace items and whether the readymade constitutes as high art. Subsequently, the viewer finds their own meanings in these works, regardless of their lifelike appearances. Fischer understands the importance of the viewers’ individual reading, stating, “They say an artwork is not there if you are not in the room. It’s true. When people try to control how something is seen, I see them as control freaks... Ultimately, truth to one’s nature is what works. When you ask what I want from the viewer, I don’t know. It’s hard to say, because whatever you do, you will not be in control of it.” (the artists Urs Fischer and Sandra Wagner, Sculpture Magazine, 2013) This relinquish of power lends his work a sense of abstraction within their representational exteriors, creating a juxtaposition between the real and the surreal.

    Fischer’s ability to take everyday items and portray them as cryptic sculptures is what keeps his work so refreshingly contemporary. He subtly quotes art historical movements of the past whilst continuously moving forward, ensuring his works are always original. His ability to see statuesque elements in household objects and present them in a fresh way creates an aesthetic unique to his art. By driving unremarkable objects into a different sphere, Fischer questions the nature of art, unites the surreal and the ordinary and encourages the viewer to re-evaluate the world around them.

12

Cutting a Cake with a Hammer

2000
wood, polystyrene, latex paint, spotlight, enamel paint, filler, nails, screws
110 x 70 x 70 cm. (43 1/4 x 27 1/2 x 27 1/2 in.)
Signed and titled 'KATZE FR KÜHLSCHRANK URS FISCHER' on the underside of the cat's front legs. This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity.

Estimate
£250,000 - 350,000 

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
[email protected]
+44 207 318 4063

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Evening Sale 10 February 2014 7pm