Urs Fischer - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Wednesday, June 26, 2019 | Phillips

Create your first list.

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

  • Provenance

    Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich
    Ingvild Goetz Collection, Munich
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    New York, Klemens Gasser & Tanja Grunert Inc., Enduring Love, 23 February - 24 March 2001
    Swiss Institute, New York, Lowland Lullaby: Ugo Rondinone with John Giorno and Urs Fischer, 26 March - 11 May 2002
    Los Angeles, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Urs Fischer, 21 April - 19 August 2013, pp. 577 and 608 (illustrated, p. 577)
    The Hague, Museum Beelden aan Zee, Skeleton The armature of the body in contemporary sculpture, 30 October 2015 - 7 February 2016

  • Literature

    Urs Fischer: Shovel in a Hole, exh. cat., New Museum, New York, 2009, pp. 46, 111 and 462 (illustrated, p. 111)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Unifying Urs Fischer’s varied artistic output is the measurement of time as a medium. Often introduced through the incorporation of materials that have an expiration date, time for Fischer is expressed in the perishing remnants of food or the slow melting of wax. In the present work, it is manifested in the skeleton and seemingly burned hand, evoking imagery that has been used since the 17th century as motifs warning against the decadence found in vanitas and memento mori. Fischer’s knowledge of the historic use of wax in creating death masks and the plaster-casting technique developed by 19th Italian archaeologist Giuseppe Fiorelli, who used plaster of Paris to fill the cavities left by bodies at Pompeii, is evident in Undigested Sunset, 2001-2002. The incorporation of wax and casting maintains these historic links to the representation and preservation of death. Yet, updated under Fischer’s hand, they lose their moralising tenor. In the present work, only the right hand is cast in pre-skeletal form, harking to the truncated and fragmented forms Fischer explored in works such as The Grass Munchers, 2007. These fragmented forms have a clear sculptural lineage to Bruce Nauman’s and Alina Szapocznikow’s sculptures of the fractured body. Crafted from cast aluminium, wax, wood, and other varied media, Undigested Sunset highlights Fischer's ingrained artistic philosophy to traditional sculptural techniques, generating excitingly unconventional sculpture and thinking.

    The chair and skeleton as signs are recurring visual devices within Fischer’s oeuvre, united in both the current example and in Skinny Sunrise, 2000, where a skeleton kneels face down onto a dirtied park bench. Commenting on his macabre subject matter, Fischer notes: ‘Basically, skeletons are pretty likeable figures for me. They are simple, like prototypes; they are an easily workable form of figuration, and for me, they have a pleasurable, curious liveliness… To understand things nowadays as vanitas or memento mori motifs is too simple, and all other celebrations of death are even more vain than any homage to life. That said, homages to life can be the most morbid things. For me the skeleton is actually a light, even playful basic human figure. My skeletons are pretty funny guys’ (Urs Fischer, quoted in Urs Fischer: Skinny Sunrise, exh. cat., Kunsthalle, Vienna, 2012, p. 15). Here, Fischer references the art historical notion that the chair is a surreal substitute for the human form, but also a symbolic portrayal of the artist. When left empty, the absence invites the interaction of the onlooker or takes on the role of the artist himself, as in Van Gogh’s famous Chair. In the present work, the sofa, scattered with rubbish and dirt from real life, forces the viewer to interact with the work on an immediate level.

    Amalgamating wit, cultural references and dark humour, Fischer explores the confines of the art space whilst touching on universal truths. Splayed on a white covered sofa, surrounded by debris, the skeleton in Undigested Sunset reclines suggestively amongst everyday dirt and rubbish. ‘Maybe it’s an obvious choice, but those are the things I relate to. What if I did a Fabergé egg? Would that be better? Even if I have nothing to do with it? I just use the stuff that’s around me. And those objects, those domestic objects as you call them, are made in human scale, so they can also be related to humans. They’re made by humans for humans. They speak about us’ (Urs Fischer, quoted in Massimiliano Gioni, ‘This is my Grandmother she Makes Really Genius Cakes’, Urs Fischer and Alex Zachery, eds., Urs Fischer: Shovel in a Hole, New York, 2009, p. 63).

    Undigested Sunset is appealing both in its dark oddity and whimsical energy, highlighting Fischer’s sustained contemplation of time, death and art history whilst incorporating the artist’s characteristic witty, playful and sardonic humour.

Property of an Important Private Collector, Europe


Undigested Sunset

cast aluminium, wax, wood, acrylic paint, pigments, fabric, silicone, wood glue and screws
77.5 x 183 x 72.5 cm (30 1/2 x 72 x 28 1/2 in.)
Executed in 2001-2.

£250,000 - 350,000 

Sold for £250,000

Contact Specialist

Rosanna Widén

Director, Senior Specialist
Head of Evening Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

44 20 7318 4060

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 27 June 2019