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Sharjah Biennial 14: Leaving the Echo Chamber Ocula Report Sharjah Biennial 14: Leaving the Echo Chamber 15 Mar 2019 : Stephanie Bailey for Ocula

In Meiro Koizumi's three-channel video installation, The Angels of Testimony (2019), the central frame features an interview with Hajime Kondo about his time as a solider of the Imperial Japanese Army during the Second Sino-Japanese War. The conversation centres on war crimes perpetrated in China, including the beheading of Chinese prisoners for...

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Diana Campbell Betancourt Ocula Conversation Diana Campbell Betancourt

Diana Campbell Betancourt is a curator working predominantly across South and Southeast Asia. Since 2013 she has been the founding artistic director of the Samdani Art Foundation and chief curator of the Dhaka Art Summit in Dhaka, Bangladesh, a transnational art event that has grown in size and scale ever since its first edition in 2012. Backed by...

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Chinternet Ugly at Manchester’s Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art Ocula Report Chinternet Ugly at Manchester’s Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art 7 Mar 2019 : Mike Pinnington for Ocula

China, home to 802 million internet users, is subject to sophisticated online censorship. This shrouded state of affairs, unsurprisingly perhaps, serves to reinforce stereotypes around conformity elsewhere. Any realm, digital or otherwise, subject to such strict scrutiny must necessarily be bland and uncritical, right? I was mulling over such...

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Erwin Wurm

b. 1954, Austria

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. 

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
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Featured Artworks

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Untitled (P89) by Erwin Wurm contemporary artwork Erwin WurmUntitled (P89), 2018 Polaroid
80 x 56 cm
Lehmann Maupin
Untitled (P105) by Erwin Wurm contemporary artwork Erwin WurmUntitled (P105), 2018 Polaroid
80 x 56 cm
Lehmann Maupin
Untitled (P82) by Erwin Wurm contemporary artwork Erwin WurmUntitled (P82), 2018 Polaroid
80 x 56 cm
Lehmann Maupin
Tall bag YSL by Erwin Wurm contemporary artwork Erwin WurmTall bag YSL, 2019 Bronze
150 x 40 x 25 cm
Lehmann Maupin
Stone by Erwin Wurm contemporary artwork Erwin WurmStone, 2019 Acrystal and stone
30 x 31 x 22 cm
Lehmann Maupin
Untitled (Austrian mountain cap) by Erwin Wurm contemporary artwork Erwin WurmUntitled (Austrian mountain cap), 2019 Polyester resin and cloth
98 x 130 x 120 cm
Lehmann Maupin
Kastenmann Black by Erwin Wurm contemporary artwork Erwin WurmKastenmann Black, 2017 Bronze and paint
200 x 60 x 55 cm
Lehmann Maupin
3 Legs (Verschnitskulpturen) by Erwin Wurm contemporary artwork Erwin Wurm3 Legs (Verschnitskulpturen), 2016 Bronze and patina
205.7 x 71.1 x 76.2 cm
Lehmann Maupin

Current & Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Erwin Wurm, Erwin Wurm at Lehmann Maupin, Hong Kong
Opening Soon
25 March–11 May 2019 Erwin Wurm Erwin Wurm Lehmann Maupin, Hong Kong
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, In Times of Plenty: The Shape of Things Today at Reflex Amsterdam, Amsterdam
Closed
7 July–4 September 2018 Group Exhibition In Times of Plenty: The Shape of Things Today Reflex Amsterdam
Contemporary art exhibition, Erwin Wurm, Ethics demonstrated in geometrical order at Lehmann Maupin, New York
Closed
30 March–26 May 2017 Erwin Wurm Ethics demonstrated in geometrical order Lehmann Maupin, 536 West 22nd Street

Represented By

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’ The New York Times : 15 June 2017

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 Whitewall : 11 May 2017

JAPANESE PAVILION, Takahiro Iwasaki: Turned Upside Down, It's a ForestTakahiro 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 of...

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

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 also...

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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' Hyperallergic : 1 May 2017

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 pens,...

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