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b. 1954, Austria

Erwin Wurm Biography

Erwin Wurm is primarily a sculptural artist who uses humour and absurdity to create works that comment on life in the present day and the issues contained within. Growing up in post-World War II Austria, his work is often critical of the values of Western society as it evolved and formed in the wake of the war. 

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Wurm is renowned for the bizarre quality of many of his works, pushing the boundaries of what sculpture itself means. For example, his ‘One Minute Sculptures’ series limits the lifespan of the sculpture, while others like Toilet (2014) and Mutter (2014) take everyday articles and distort or alter them to create new objects. Our relationships with objects, food, ethics and philosophy are all of significance to this commentary; his interest is in confronting all aspects of human life within contemporary culture.

Wurm’s use of humour is the vital element that unites his critical concepts with an aesthetic approach. It gives the work accessibility. He presents objects and forms that are familiar; they are identifiable, but also distorted or positioned out of context. This plays on the audiences’ understanding of the object as it exists outside of the artwork, and leads them to a conversation between that object, the elements he has distorted and what he is illustrating. 

Fat Convertible (2004), for example, marries the instantly recognizable glossy red figure of a Porsche with the swollen mass of an obese human body. The industrial and biological bodies are inextricably tied together in this way, and thus Wurm invites the viewer to confront a multitude of ideas about how fashions drive an appetite for consumer goods, the fulfilling of which is now tied to the idea of satisfaction in life. 

Fat Convertible also conveys an idea about the significance of internal space. The obese folds of the car come from filling in internal spaces that would otherwise be empty, even though this undeniably destroys the vehicle’s most fundamental shape. These empty spaces are crucial to both its form and function as they speak to the biological body the car is mimicking, how an abundance of consumption affects the shape and space within physical bodies, as well as how we fill the spaces we occupy when we attempt to find satisfaction. Wurm’s works are capable of carrying such loaded concepts yet he retains a true accessibility through comedy. 

Wurm has spoken about his strong and direct manner of communicating, saying ‘I once read that [finding] the short way is the most important thing. I took this maxim to heart.’ His work reflects this conviction. His use of humour to make difficult subject matter easy and accessible is part of a long-standing comedic tradition, and he sees this as facilitating the possibility for light and open conversation around subjects that, while important, may otherwise be hard to discuss. Summing up his goal he says ‘Many artists are good at making the easy difficult. I’m interested in making the difficult easy.’

Amy Millar | Ocula | 2017

Erwin Wurm, Outdoor Sculptures Taipei (2000) (partial view). Digital print. Courtesy the artist and Taipei Fine Arts Museum.

Erwin Wurm Featured Artworks

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Little Big House by Erwin Wurm contemporary artwork
Erwin WurmLittle Big House, 2003Plaster and paint
28 x 48 x 37 cm
Lehmann Maupin Enquire about this work
Indoor Sculpture, Serie: "Taipei" by Erwin Wurm contemporary artwork
Erwin WurmIndoor Sculpture, Serie: "Taipei", 2000C-print
80 x 120 cm
Galerie Krinzinger Enquire about this work
Untitled (with fruits) (One Minute Forever) by Erwin Wurm contemporary artwork
Erwin WurmUntitled (with fruits) (One Minute Forever), 2019Acrylic, plaster
92 x 67 x 45 cm
Lehmann Maupin Enquire about this work
Outdoor Sculptures Taipei 台北戶外雕塑 by Erwin Wurm contemporary artwork
Erwin WurmOutdoor Sculptures Taipei 台北戶外雕塑, 2000Digital print (partial view)
Taipei Fine Arts Museum
Untitled by Erwin Wurm contemporary artwork
Erwin WurmUntitled, 2018Bronze
80 x 28 x 32 cm
Not for sale
Tang Contemporary Art
Short bag by Erwin Wurm contemporary artwork
Erwin WurmShort bag, 2017bronze and patina
21.65 x 9.45 x 17.72 inches
Lehmann Maupin Enquire about this work
Smack! (Abstract Attack) by Erwin Wurm contemporary artwork
Erwin WurmSmack! (Abstract Attack), 2013Bronze, paint
9.5 x 14 x 14.5 cm
Xavier Hufkens Enquire about this work
Hand (Abstract Sculptures) by Erwin Wurm contemporary artwork
Erwin WurmHand (Abstract Sculptures), 2013Bronze, paint, wood
17.5 x 30 x 25 cm
Xavier Hufkens Enquire about this work

Erwin Wurm Current & Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Erwin Wurm, One Minute in Taipei: Erwin Wurm Solo Exhibition at Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei
Closing Soon
2 April–5 July 2020 Erwin Wurm One Minute in Taipei: Erwin Wurm Solo Exhibition Taipei Fine Arts MuseumTaipei
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, WHO AM I at Tang Contemporary Art, Beijing
Closed
14 March–10 May 2020 Group Exhibition WHO AM I Tang Contemporary ArtBeijing
Contemporary art exhibition, Erwin Wurm, Hello Seoul! at Lehmann Maupin, Seoul
Closed
20 February–11 April 2020 Erwin Wurm Hello Seoul! Lehmann MaupinSeoul

Erwin Wurm Represented By

Lehmann Maupin contemporary art gallery in Hong Kong Lehmann Maupin New York, Hong Kong, Seoul

Erwin Wurm In Ocula Magazine

Taipei Stays Open: Shows to See Ocula Report Taipei Stays Open: Shows to See By Tessa Moldan, Taipei

With Taipei Dangdai launching the online platform Taipei Connections (2–5 May 2020) to connect galleries with collectors prior to the fair's January 2021 edition, we take a look at exhibitions taking place across Taipei's art scene.

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Taipei Dangdai Launches Digital Platform With Ocula Ocula News Taipei Dangdai Launches Digital Platform With Ocula Taipei, 23 April 2020

Taipei Connections seeks to build a bridge between galleries and collectors separated by COVID-19.

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Art Basel in Hong Kong: Exhibitions to See Ocula Report Art Basel in Hong Kong: Exhibitions to See By Tessa Moldan, Hong Kong

For those visiting during Art Basel in Hong Kong (29–31 March 2019), the smell of fresh paint may still be in the air at the latest heritage conservation project, The Mills, which opened on 16 March to encompass the Centre for Heritage, Arts and Textiles (CHAT), joining the ranks with ex-prison complex Tai Kwun, along with Eaton HK—a retro...

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Erwin Wurm In Related Press

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At Venice Biennale, Erwin Wurm Makes Sculpture ‘a Form of Action’ Related Press At Venice Biennale, Erwin Wurm Makes Sculpture ‘a Form of Action’ 15 June 2017, The New York Times

For the next five months, an orange freight truck will be standing on its head outside the Austrian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. Visitors are invited to go up the stairs to a small enclosure at the top, where labels on all sides read: 'Stand quiet and look out over the Mediterranean Sea.'

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Giardini Pavilion Highlights from the 57th Venice Biennale Related Press Giardini Pavilion Highlights from the 57th Venice Biennale 11 May 2017, Whitewall

JAPANESE PAVILION, Takahiro Iwasaki: Turned Upside Down, It's a Forest Takahiro Iwasaki has created a multifaceted spatial experience of viewing the Itsukushima Shrine located in Hiroshima, where the artist was born, raised, and continues to work. Viewers can see the site from the perspective of a bird, insect, or fish, skewing the perception...

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WHAT TO SEE DURING FRIEZE WEEK 2017 Related Press WHAT TO SEE DURING FRIEZE WEEK 2017 3 May 2017, Whitewall

Ethics demonstrated in geometrical order will showcase new works from the artist Erwin Wurm's series One Minute Sculptures, which he's been making for 20 years. The series asks viewers to enact a pose with everyday items for just one minute—this time around he's using midcentury modern furniture. These audience-activated sculptures will...

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'One Minute Sculpture' at Twenty: Erwin Wurm's 'Ethics Demonstrated in Geometrical Order' Related Press 'One Minute Sculpture' at Twenty: Erwin Wurm's 'Ethics Demonstrated in Geometrical Order' 1 May 2017, Hyperallergic

In the twenty years Erwin Wurm has been making his one minute sculptures, the sculptures' Conceptual recipe has remained consistent. Then as now, viewers, prompted by simple written instructions, realize the sculptures by briefly enacting awkward, often humorous or humiliating, poses with repurposed everyday objects such as a desk, a bunch of...

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