b. 1952, Switzerland

Peter Fischli Biography

Peter Fischli is one half of the Swiss collaboration known as Fischli/Weiss, whose work explores the banality of the everyday by placing common objects in absurd contexts.

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Life

Born in Zurich, Switzerland, Peter Fischli studied in Italy at the Academy of Fine Arts in Urbino from 1975 to 1976 and the Academy of Fine Arts in Bologna from 1976 to 1977. He met David Weiss in 1978. They formed Migros, a live rock band, before transitioning to art the following year. The duo had their first solo exhibition in 1981 at the Galerie Balkon in Geneva.

Peter Fischli and David Weiss Artworks

Fischli/Weiss are known for their sharp humor and pointed sense of observation that transgresses any single format or medium. Spanning across photography, film, installation, and sculpture, their 30-year-long collaboration is informed by a curiosity for the world and a distaste for the seriousness of contemporary art.

Early Works and Influences

Influenced by the Dada and Fluxus movements and artists such as Marcel Duchamp and Dieter Roth, Fischli/Weiss' works often challenge the nature of the artwork and the artist by evoking their subjectivity. Commonplace objects are transformed and transposed in unexpected environments, often for no greater reason.

For Wurstserie (Sausage Series) (1979), their first collaborative work, a bathroom shelf was transformed into a runway for fashionable sausages, while an unmade bed became an Alpine landscape. The ten coloured photographs showing the meat protagonists in everyday scenes set the tone for future works.

Clay Sculptures

In the early 1980s, Fischli/Weiss started making sculptures. Suddenly This Overview (1981—2012) is an aggregation of over 600 unfired clay sculptures that staged the lives of such famous people as Marco Polo and Freud's Anna O, combining high and low art to depict scenes from history, entertainment, and popular culture, cast in unremarkable materials.

Already-Mades

Polyurethane Objects (1982) borrowed the materials of Hollywood propmakers to create replicas of ordinary objects found around the artist's studio, including a paint roller, a bottle of bleach, a few M&Ms, and a cardboard box. 'Unlike Pop art, which turns one particular object into an icon, they are a collection of replicas of worthless everyday objects,' remarked Fischli in a 2006 interview.

For the 'Rubber Sculptures' series, Fischli/Weiss spun the narrative around casting utilitarian objects—such as Divider (1987), Vase (1986—1987), and Dog Dish (1987)—in heavyweight black rubber.

Kinetic Sculptures

Fischli/Weiss's artworks challenge the distinction between object and artwork, transplanting their concerns across series and mediums. 'Quiet Afternoon' (1984—1985), a photograph series depicting kitchen utensils, vegetables, tires, chairs, and bottles, shows the objects stacked and balanced in the air, suspended in time.

Its successor, The Way Things Go (1987), a 16mm film that previewed at Documenta 8 the same year, recovers the same objects projected in the air. They are shown tossed across the warehouse where the shoot took place—crashing, burning, deflating, exploding—recovering the energy from the photographs and recalling the kinetic sculptures of Jean Tinguely.

How to Work Better

Fischli/Weiss' later works are more conceptual. How to Work Better (1991), a ten-point manifesto hand painted on a building on Houston Street in New York, offers suggestions such as 'Be Calm' and 'Smile'. The document was replicated from a sign on a bulletin board in a ceramic factory in Thailand printed three decades prior.

Planet People Profit (2021) similarly uses text to offer a critique of contemporary work culture. With reference to Peter Fisk's book, How to Embrace Sustainability for Innovation and Business Growth (2010), Fischli compiled self-help books, academic texts, and how-to guides that dealt with income generation and optimisation by tying them to sentiments of guilt and moral worth.

Institutional Holdings

Fischli/Weiss worked together from 1979 to 2012. Weiss passed away in Zurich in April 2012, marking the end of a 33-year collaboration. Fischli continues to work in Zurich. Their works are held in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin.

Awards and Accolades

Fischli and Weiss represented Switzerland six times at the Venice Biennale. Their work has been featured in Documenta and Skulptur Projekte Munster. The duo won the Golden Lion award for Questions (1981—2002) in 2003. In 2016, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York showed the first large-scale retrospective of their work.

Gallery

On Ocula, Peter Fischli is represented by Galerie Buchholz and Sprüth Magers. Recent exhibitions hosted by Sprüth Magers include Peter Fischli (2021).

Elaine YJ Zheng | Ocula | 2021

Peter Fischli Featured Artworks

ohne Titel (Vorzugsausgabe 'Wir ungestalten') by Peter Fischli contemporary artwork photography, print, mixed media
Peter Fischli ohne Titel (Vorzugsausgabe 'Wir ungestalten'), 2022 Silkscreen and inkjet photo collage on aluminium
41 x 32 cm
Galerie Buchholz Contact Gallery
ohne Titel by Peter Fischli contemporary artwork photography, print, mixed media
Peter Fischli ohne Titel, 2020 Silkscreen and inkjet photo collage on aluminium
32 x 41 cm
Galerie Buchholz Contact Gallery
ohne Titel by Peter Fischli contemporary artwork sculpture
Peter Fischli ohne Titel, 2022 Wood, colour, polyurethane, and metal
198 x 124 x 12.5 cm
Galerie Buchholz Contact Gallery
ohne Titel by Peter Fischli contemporary artwork photography, print
Peter Fischli ohne Titel, 2020 Silkscreen and inkjet photo collage on aluminium, two parts
Galerie Buchholz Contact Gallery
ohne Titel by Peter Fischli contemporary artwork photography, print
Peter Fischli ohne Titel, 2020 Silkscreen and inkjet photo collage on aluminium, two parts
Galerie Buchholz Contact Gallery
Cans by Peter Fischli contemporary artwork works on paper, sculpture
Peter Fischli Cans, 2017–2019 Mounted cardboard, paint
Sprüth Magers Enquire
Cans by Peter Fischli contemporary artwork works on paper, sculpture
Peter Fischli Cans, 2017–2019 Mounted cardboard, paint
Sprüth Magers Enquire
Reliefs (Monkeys) by Peter Fischli contemporary artwork sculpture
Peter Fischli Reliefs (Monkeys), 2019/2020 Expansice polyurethane foam
105 x 75 x 25 cm
Sprüth Magers Enquire

Peter Fischli Current & Recent Exhibitions

Peter Fischli Represented By

Galerie Buchholz contemporary art gallery in Berlin, Germany
Galerie Buchholz Berlin, Cologne, New York
Sprüth Magers contemporary art gallery in Berlin, Germany
Sprüth Magers Berlin, London, Los Angeles, New York
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