Art | Erwin Wurm in Sixty Seconds

One Minute Sculpture, 1997

Courtesy Centre Pompidou, Paris
and FRAC Limousin, Limoges

Erwin Wurm:
One Minute Sculptures

Städel Museum
Frankfurt am Mein | Germany
7th May > 13 July 2014

How many minutes have passed since the instant in 1997 when Austrian artist Erwin Wurm (1954 >) began producing the works in this series? The mind boggles… Seven years ago he was probably wondering himself how long the idea of inviting gallery / museum visitors to become sculptures themselves, albeit for only 60 seconds – that’s 840 seconds (14 minutes) less than Andy Warhol allegedly promised us all that we could be famous for – would endure. But, like Christian Marclay’s audiovisual work, The Clock, lasting 24 hours – on view at Paris’s Centre Pompidou from 17th May > 2nd July, where it was first shown in 2011 – Wurm’s concept has remained fresh and stood the test of time.

Fat Car (Convertible), 2005
Polystyrene / styrofoam and polyester

Of course, audience partition in art isn’t new. It was an integral part of Futurism (key dates 1909 > 1944) which both celebrated and derided the crowd as a force for the future and as representative of the primitive past. In 1920, at the reading of the Dadaist manifestos by, among others, Francis Picabia, André Breton and Tristan Tzara, which ended in uproar – exactly as they intended – the audience pelted the stage with rubbish. Yves Klein in France and Yoko Ono in New York City were pioneers of performance based art, and part of a broad movement originating in the 1950s and 60s, when artists began pushing the boundaries of contemporary art, sometimes combining elements of music, dance and sculpture in their attempts to create new forms of artistic expression, for which audience participation was often integral. While Wurm’s creations are nowhere near as epic as the cast of thousands, human nude art installations that New York based photographer Spencer Tunick has been creating all over the world for the past 20 years. As an artist he is no less serious, questioning the role of galleries / museums in contemporary society, his work no less sophisticated for appearing – at least superficially – fun and sometimes funny.

One Minute Sculptures, 1997

Courtesy Centre Pompidou,
Paris and FRAC Limousin, Limoges

From his early minimalist clothing sculptures that he began producing in the 1980s, throughout his many exhibitions at a range of international venues that include the Vitra Museum in Weil am Rhein, Germany, Dallas Contemporary, USA, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris, France, and the Albertina in Vienna, Austria, through the ephemeral One Minute Sculptures to the grotesquely bloated objects such as Fat Car (2000 / 2001) and Fat House (2003), Wurm has concentrated consistently on expanding the concept of what a sculpture, when it is no longer cast in bronze or chiselled from marble, could be.

The main thrust of Erwin Wurm: One Minute Sculptures at the Städel Museum is built on the dynamic between the artist and the audience. Visitors to previous One Minute Sculpture events have been invited, by means of the artist’s sketches suggesting nothing more than a hint or starting point, among other things, to balance their bodies on oranges, to insert a range of desktop items into every orifice in their heads, and to create a sculpture using only their own bodies and a folding sunbed, but always only for one minute.

In addition to the living sculptures with which the visitors can interact and temporarily become part of the Städel collection, some twenty selected photographs and films from the series will also be on show.

All images except* © Studio Wurm / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

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