An “overweight” house by Austrian sculptor Erwin Wurm has been installed just outside an 18th-century palace in Vienna. Wurm is one of Austria’s best-known contemporary artists. Best known for works like his One Minute Sculptures, which featured in a Red Hot Chili Peppers music video, he was this year selected as one of the curators of Austria’s national pavilion at the Venice Art Biennale.
Erwin Wurm has been exploring the expressive possibilities of sculpture for over 35 years. As profound as it is ironic, his multifaceted body of work encompasses nearly all genres and extends the concept of sculpture via its interactive, social and temporal aspects. With his Fat Sculptures – “fatty” middle-class status symbols like cars or single-family homes – the sculptor delivers snappy and striking commentary on today’s consumer society.
The southern end of the Upper Belvedere hosts one of Erwin Wurm’s famous fat houses (Fat House, 2003), which was acquired for the Belvedere collection in 2016. The obese house contains a video projection in which the very same swollen building argues with itself and poses existential questions to the incoming visitor, such as: “When does a house become art and who determines that?” The sculpture, accessible in the Belvedere’s garden, presents a taste of Wurm’s contribution to the Venice Biennale as well as of the exhibition “Erwin Wurm – Performative Sculptures” which will be on display in the nearby 21er Haus until 10 September 2017.
The solo exhibition at the 21er Haus comprises upwards of 40 performative sculptures and statues, including a series of new works that Wurm developed especially for the show. In his most recent work, he examines extraordinary examples of architecture and objects of daily use. The starting point is represented by models and blocks of clay, which are usually processed by Wurm himself or other people whom he instructs. Tension arises in the dialogue between the original form of objects and the traces left by the performative interventions, turning the body into the material and the medium of action. In the exhibition, the works of clay are juxtaposed with castings made of bronze, aluminium, iron or polyester resin. The exhibition is curated by Severin Dünser and Alfred Weidinger.
Belvedere’s curator Alfred Weidinger followed Erwin Wurm and Brigitte Kowanz with his camera during their preparations for the Venice Biennale – from the initial ideas to the project’s implementation. The resulting documentary film and artist portraits has been showed for the first time at the Biennale in May 2017, and can also be seen during the Erwin Wurm exhibition at the 21er Haus. These open new ways for the audience to approach the works of these two representatives of contemporary Austrian art.
all images © Johannes Stoll