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Geschwister (Siblings)

Geschwister (Siblings)
plastic, lacquer, mirror foil, glass, metal, wood and fabric
86 5⁄8 x 23 5⁄8 x 39 3⁄8in. (220 x 60 x 100cm.)
Executed in 2004
David Zwirner, New York.
Private Collection, Boca Raton.
Saatchi Collection, London.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Artforum, November 2005 (detail illustrated in colour, front cover).
S. Breitwieser, D. Diederichsen and A. Farquharson, Isa Genzken, London 2006, p. 158 (installation view at David Zwirner in 2005 illustrated in colour, p. 8; Artforum November 2005 cover illustrated in colour, p. 154).
M. Holborn, Germania, London 2008, p. 178 (illustrated in colour, p. 179).
B. H. D. Buchloh, 'All Things Being Equal', in October Files 17: Isa Genzken, Cambridge 2015 (illustrated, p. 96).
L. Lee, Isa Genzken: Sculpture as World Receiver, Chicago 2017, pp. 91, 93 and 98, fig. 58 (illustrated in colour, p. 92).
New York, David Zwirner, Isa Genzken: New Work, 2005.
Washington, D.C., Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, The Uncertainty of Objects and Ideas: Recent Sculpture, 2006-2007, p. 117 (installation view illustrated in colour, p. 49; illustrated in colour, p. 56).
London, Saatchi Gallery, Gesamtkunstwerk: New Art From Germany, 2011-2012 (illustrated in colour, front cover; illustrated in colour, p. 58).

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Claudia Schürch
Claudia Schürch Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Throughout her long and celebrated oeuvre, the German artist Isa Genzken has ceaselessly expanded the boundaries of sculpture. Previously in the Saatchi Collection, Geschwister (Siblings) (2004) is an extraordinary manifestation of this quest, pushing sculpture to its very limits. Genzken embraces found objects and assemblage to create an artwork that captures the confusion of the contemporary world. She has collaged several items to a towering, columnar structure, including the mirrored foil of a disco-ball, metal trays and three boldly-coloured highball glasses. The pillar is trussed with neon-pink tape and black spray paint. Two minimalist folding chairs adorn it, one upturned and unfolded, the other collapsed by its side. A glossy scarlet Eros swivel chair by the postmodernist French designer Philippe Starck crowns the sculpture. Genzken has a decades-long interest in radio receivers, which she sees as feelers that stretch out to embrace the world: the Eros chair here resembles a satellite dish, a more advanced device with a similar function. Two mangled dolls, the siblings of the work’s title, lie trapped within the furnishings. The head of one rolls off the side of the tower, its face smeared with paint, as if the victim of some act of violence. Industrial design and household objects combine to form an unnerving and ambiguous altar.

Geschwister belongs to Genzken’s second series of assemblage sculptures, following the group collectively titled Empire/Vampire, Who Kills Death (2002-2003), which was conceived after the artist witnessed the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Like other works of this period, its columnar form evokes sleek modernist skyscrapers. Geschwister has become one of her seminal works in this idiom, featuring as the cover image for the November 2005 issue of Artforum. The following year, it was included in the major group show The Uncertainty of Objects and Ideas: Recent Sculpture at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C. While part of the Saatchi Collection, it appeared in the Saatchi Gallery's group exhibition Gesamtkunstwerk: New Art From Germany in 2011. Several related works are currently on display at Isa Genzken: 75/75: a major survey of Genzken’s career to date at Berlin’s Neue Nationalgalerie that marks the occasion of her 75th birthday.

In assembling mass-manufactured relics into a totemic artwork, Genzken challenges the hierarchies that divide high art and pop culture. For art historian Lisa Lee, her elaborate sculpture serves as a subversive critique of modern mass manufacture which has left a world littered with disposable, reproducible products. ‘Like Warhol,’ she says, ‘Genzken attempts to expose the barbarity inherent in commodified culture’ (L. Lee, Isa Genzken: Sculpture as a World Receiver, Chicago 2017, p. 91). Yet Genzken is also aware of the difficulty of creating art able to reflect these conditions. According to Benjamin Buchloh, her work confronts ‘a terror that emerges from both the universal equivalence and exchangeability of all objects and materials and the simultaneous impossibility of imbuing any transgressive definition of sculpture with priorities or criteria of selection, of choice, let alone judgement’ (B. Buchloh, ‘All Things Being Equal: Isa Genzken’, Artforum, November 2005, p. 224). With Geschwister, Genzken creates a powerful new form of sculpture that embraces the contradictions of making art in the twenty-first century.

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