Urs Fischer - Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Wednesday, February 11, 2015 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich

  • Exhibited

    Zurich, Kunsthaus Zürich, Urs Fischer: Kir Royal, 9 July – 26 September 2004 (prototype of the edition exhibited)
    Mexico City, La Coleccíon Jumex, Schweiz über alles, 26 January – 19 March 2008 (another example from the edition exhibited)
    Buckinghamshire, Waddesdon Manor (in collaboration with Christie's Private Sales), House of Cards, 26 May to 28 October 2012 (Artist's proof from the edition exhibited)

  • Literature

    exh. cat., Urs Fisher: Shovel in a Hole, New Museum, New York, 2009, pp. 114, 339 (illustrated)
    Urs Fischer, Kiito-San, New York, 2013, pp.360 (study for), 361

  • Catalogue Essay

    ‘It’s kind of arbitrary. It’s not about our culture now. It’s just objects I choose. I like that they are not very interesting things — or they are. It depends on your level of attention. And I don’t care about big or small. I’m interested in collisions of things, and how objects relate to each other.’

    - URS FISCHER, 2009

    Urs Fischer is not an artist with a message. Rather, he is concerned with the capricious product that results through a combination of the act of creation with the physicality of materials. His work does not start with a concept, but with the materials. Through this process, and the appropriation of common images into his artworks, Fischer is able to explore the limits of representation via mimesis and scale.

    The present lot, a seemingly random juxtaposition of objects from the everyday – a chair and a half-empty pack of cigarettes – is meant to generate ideas and to prompt questions without providing the answers. For Fischer, ‘the power of art lies in the ability to communicate somewhere other than in the things you can explain verbally.’ (Interview with Neville Wakefield, Garage Magazine, 2013). Engaging the mind of the viewer as a way of generating ideas is a powerful apparatus that Fischer uses in order to captivate attention, while suggesting no narrative or socio-political message. The seemingly total disconnect between Fischer’s two conjoined objects asks for consideration as a sort of sculptural still life of surreal proportions. Probing the mind and the structures of meaning that dwell within, these works are meant to resonate with the viewer at a later time: there will not be an ‘Ah ha!’ moment, but what Fischer provides is an image that will continuously recur, unsettling and permeating our conscious and subconscious apprehensions.

    The fact that Fischer did not go to art school – he trained as a photographer, but has had no formal academic training in painting or sculpture – is important in his process. It is an uncommon thing for an artist as successful as Fischer not to have attended formal artistic schooling, but he views this as a positive. He has stated that art should be ‘about making things, in the broadest possible way. In art school now, you have to write essays before you can make art.’ (Brian Boucher, ‘Out of Control: Urs Fischer and Gagosian take Manhattan,’ Art in America, 02/04/2014). Fischer does not work with a prescribed method or with a stated intention; he allows the materials to take shape over time, sometimes quickly and sometimes over several years, but always with a sense of entropy and deterioration or transformation.

    Scale is another crucial aspect of Fischer’s work. By blowing up easily recognisable and common objects, a dimension is added to his art that inspires wonder and comedy. As undeniably awesome spectacle, Fischer’s objects call to mind the appropriation and large scale Pop works by artists such as Claes Oldenburg or Tom Wesselmann, while similarly following the Surrealists and Dadaists through the collision of distinctly different found images that warp our perceptions in their surprising juxtaposition.

    There is something particularly jarring in the familiar and rather domestic nature of the objects portrayed on such a monstrous scale here. Damien Hirst has said of cigarettes that ‘Apart from the addiction, the attraction is that there’s nothing certain in life and things change all the time, but you can always rely on something like a cigarette – which punctuates your whole existence time and time again – to be the same. It’s almost like you’re cheating death. But it’s killing you, so then, smoking becomes even sexier. People are afraid of change, so you create a kind of belief for them through repetition. It’s like breathing. So I’ve always been drawn to series and pairs.’ (Damien Hirst interviewed by Hans Ulrich Obrist, 2007, damienhirst.com). You can’t rely on Fischer’s cigarettes: he has terrifyingly inverted the familiar and reassuring, the cigarette packet here forming a vast, threatening monolith, opening like a gaping maw. Even the enormous chair, comically useless for its intended purpose, is dwarfed by this strange edifice. Pared back to flat, blank planes, the packaging absent of any logo, the objects loom with the potential to disrupt our very notions of reality.

    Despite being in many ways an unsettling piece, a glaring disruption of our parameters of expectation, Bad Timing, Lamb Chop! is also puckishly humorous. Highlighting the dual seriousness and wit of his output, Fischer states that ‘If you don't enjoy making work, then it's bad. It's rough. Artwork is brutal for so many people. They let it happen to them, but it's brutal. I like the idea of an artist as somebody who works.’ (Urs Fischer interviewed by Gavin Brown, Interview Magazine, 2007). In an interview with that other enfant terrible of contemporary art, Maurizio Cattelan, Fischer hints at the postmodern sensibility of his practice. Though seemingly almost overwhelmed by his own work, he is unafraid of disintegration, and views his images affectionately, as able to transcend both beauty and horror, both destruction and creation.

    Do you consider your art chaotic?

    No. I don’t think so. It’s cautious and friendly, has nothing to do with chaos. It’s all a fairly sickly, boiled-up pudding.

    Do you really think it’s that sickly? But you keep returning to the same point: everything you touch becomes beautiful, and then you bust it up again.

    That’s right. When you’ve got a nicely set pudding like that, a cake, and pour chocolate over it. And then cream on top of that. The more you put on it the sweeter and nicer it gets. Is that really so? Yes, I think so. I get angry with my art, with the fact that it’s so sweet and sickly.

    It’s too sweet for you? So you add even more?

    Something like that, perhaps. I try to put a little bit, a bit of shit on top. I’m too nervous to really pour shit over it. I’m too nervous to really make something that’s kaput. I make sentimental sweeties, this ruinous thing here, it’s all so peaceful and gives a nice smile. My works really smile. They’re not horrible ruins. Not like real ruins, on top of a mountain and inhabited by terrible people, robber barons and murderers and perverse slavedrivers. Nowadays you can look at them and think: Oh, how wonderful, how beautiful the sun looks. But they fall apart sometimes, there’s nothing to be afraid of any more. (Urs Fischer interviewed by Maurizio Cattelan, Mousse Magazine, Issue 11, November 2007).


Bad Timing, Lamb Chop!

cast aluminium, polyurethane resin, enamel paint
450 x 230 x 330 cm (177 1/8 x 90 1/2 x 129 7/8 in.)
This work is number 1 from an edition of 2 plus 1 artist's proof.

£600,000 - 800,000 

Sold for £506,500

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
+44 207 318 4063

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 12 February 2015 7pm