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Thomas Schütte (b. 1954)
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Thomas Schütte (b. 1954)

Untitled (United Enemies)

Thomas Schütte (b. 1954)
Untitled (United Enemies)
fimo, fabric, wood, metallic string, pvc-pipe and glass dome
each figure, approximately: 13 3/8 x 5 7/8 x 5 7/8in. (34 x 15 x 15cm.)
Executed in 1994
Galerie Nelson, Paris.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1995.
Special notice

No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 15% will be added to the buyer's premium which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

Lot Essay

In Untitled (United Enemies), Thomas Schütte confronts the viewer with a pair of contemporary grotesques. These disturbing characters are shown with pallid, hairless, distorted features. Despite their miniaturised scale, they recall the explorations of facial expressions of the eighteenth-century Austrian sculptor, Franz Xaver Messerschmidt. But where Messerschmidt explored the range of human features and their ability to convey sensations and emotions, Schütte has deliberately presented us with puppet-like monsters who appear to have only the barest claim to the status of humanity.

The human figure had long featured in Schütte's works by the time Untitled (United Enemies) was executed in 1994. Partly this was the result of the artist's long-held fascination with the expressive power of the body and of the face. Indeed, these painstakingly crafted heads, with their livid expressions, form a contrast to the monumental, faceless aluminium sculptures by the same artist, which explore the body and the power of its poses and movements to convey information and even emotion. It was only the year before this work was made that Schütte had created the array of United Enemies which he subsequently exhibited in their strange pairings, sometimes with close-up photographs in the backgrounds. These images added an intense drama, both in terms of psychology and of scale, as the small heads from which the large photographs had been taken were there for all to see, as a reminder. In Untitled (United Enemies), this game of scale is played out in the doll-like size of these strange and haunting figures, which appear to have been elevated to a proximity of human height through the use of a pedestal and a glass dome for which the viewer is almost thankful. This pair of figures appears bold and unscrupulous, worthy of their glass prison but defiant enough to meet directly the gaze of their human viewers.

The pairs of figures that comprised the celebrated United Enemies series were in part the result of time that Schütte spent in Rome in 1992. There, he was influenced by the busts and figures that filled streets and squares and lined the galleries and halls of so many of the museums. These countless hordes of faces from the past stare out at the passer-by from all manner of structure. Schütte was also influenced by the political situation, as it was a period of upheaval when scandal after scandal toppled various public figures in Italy at the time. In Untitled (United Enemies), the commemorations of lives of yore, the intensity of the gaze of long-dead leaders and the dark nature of the hunger for power of their present incarnations are all brought to the fore with lurid intensity. This pair seems unable even to cope with each other, bound not only under glass, but also to each other. At the same time, some jarring comic relief, a sense of their ridiculousness, of their role in the Punch and Judy drama of modern politics and power, is brought to the fore by the fragments of Schütte's own clothes which have been converted into strange dressing gowns for these strange characters.

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