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b. 1954, Austria

Erwin Wurm Biography

While Erwin Wurm works with many mediums, including found objects, clay, and photography, wry humour is his primary material. Taking cues from conceptual and performance art, Wurm uses absurdity to comment on Western attitudes toward commodities, food, ethics, and philosophy.

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Erwin Wurm was born in 1954 in Bruck an der Mur, Austria. His work often involves either recontextualised readymade objects or highly distorted recreations of familiar forms. While his practice may at first seem jovial, beneath its comedy is a critique of the darker aspects of the post-war society the artist grew up in.

One method of distortion Wurm plays with is the skewing of scale. Erwin Wurm's sculpture Narrow House (2010), for example, mimics the depth and height of an ordinary home, while its width is dramatically condensed. Viewers are invited to enter the exceptionally thin house whose contents have been made extremely narrow, creating a sense of claustrophobia that Wurm likens to that of the 'narrow society of the 50s and 60s when I grew up in Austria'.

Other Erwin Wurm artworks address overconsumption by exaggerating an object's size. Outside the artist's studio in the Austrian countryside is the sculpture Fat House (2003), which contrasts Narrow House by appearing exceptionally bloated, while for the sculpture series 'Fat Cars' (2001–2005), Wurm created oversized car replicas.

In Fat Convertible (2004), a Porsche's normally sleek figure is swollen as though its innards have expanded from within and are barely contained by its glossy red exterior. By drawing comparisons between industrial and biological bodies, the work invites critique of the insatiable appetite of consumerist culture.

Vehicles are a recurring motif in Wurm's work. Installed in Brooklyn Bridge Park in 2018, Hot Dog Bus made a Volkswagen Microbus into a bulbous, mustard-coloured, functional hotdog truck. The sculpture Renault 25 1991 (2008) resembles a life-sized car slanted dramatically to one side, while the van in Telekinetically bent VW-Van (2006) is curved to appear to be making a quick turn. Both works play on the visualisation of speed in photographs and film.

Perhaps Wurm's best-known series, 'One Minute Sculptures' (1988–ongoing) comprises works based on simple instructions for participants to assume poses for 60 seconds. In The Speculative Realist (2015), participants are instructed to stand on one leg and balance a highlighter between their knee and chin. Roast yourself under the sun of Epicurus (2007) asks the public to place their head in the space between a plinth and a glowing lamp that hangs above it.

While Erwin Wurm's 'One Minute Sculptures' are often presented in galleries and museums, and activated by a public willing to look silly, they are also documented in photographs that Wurm refers to as 'Photographic Sculptures'. 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.'

Wurm's use of humour to make difficult subject matter easy and accessible is part of a long-standing comedic tradition, and he sees it 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.'

In recent years, Wurm has been turning toward abstraction and working with clay. In a series that he refers to as 'Portraits', everyday objects like power cords and stationery are worked into amorphous clay sculptures that he casts. Another series sees Wurm conceal guns with clay to make bulbous forms resembling phalluses—sharply indicative of the artist's use of humour to overlay sinister truths.

Wurm lives and works in Vienna and Limberg, Austria.

Elliat Albrecht | Ocula | 2020

Erwin Wurm Featured Artworks

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Untitled (10) by Erwin Wurm contemporary artwork
Erwin WurmUntitled (10), 2020Concrete, acrystal, paint
61 x 20 x 13 cm
KÖNIG GALERIE Contact Gallery
Short bag by Erwin Wurm contemporary artwork
Erwin WurmShort bag, 2017Bronze and patina
55 x 24 x 45 cm
Lehmann Maupin Contact Gallery
Little Big House by Erwin Wurm contemporary artwork
Erwin WurmLittle Big House, 2003Plaster and paint
28 x 48 x 37 cm
Sold
Lehmann Maupin
Indoor Sculpture, Serie: "Taipei" by Erwin Wurm contemporary artwork
Erwin WurmIndoor Sculpture, Serie: "Taipei", 2000C-print
80 x 120 cm
Galerie Krinzinger Contact Gallery
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 Contact Gallery
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
Hand (Abstract Sculptures) by Erwin Wurm contemporary artwork
Erwin WurmHand (Abstract Sculptures), 2013Bronze, paint, wood
17.5 x 30 x 25 cm
Xavier Hufkens Contact Gallery

Erwin Wurm Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Erwin Wurm, One Minute in Taipei: Erwin Wurm Solo Exhibition at Taipei Fine Arts Museum
Closed
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

KÖNIG GALERIE contemporary art gallery in Berlin, Germany KÖNIG GALERIE Berlin, London, Seoul
Lehmann Maupin contemporary art gallery in 536 West 22nd Street, New York, USA Lehmann Maupin New York, Hong Kong, London, Seoul

Erwin Wurm In Ocula Magazine

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

With Taipei Dangdai launching the online platform Taipei Connections, here's a roundup of shows to see across Taipei.

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

For those visiting Art Basel in Hong Kong (29–31 March 2019), find out what is currently making the city's art scene tick with this guide of exhibitions to see.

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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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