Franz West (Austrian, 1947-2012) Untitled 2001

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Lot 35AR TP
Franz West
(Austrian, 1947-2012)

Sold for £ 100,000 (US$ 137,182) inc. premium
Franz West (Austrian, 1947-2012)

lacquer on aluminium

55 by 125 by 65 cm.
21 5/8 by 49 3/16 by 25 9/16 in.

This work was executed in 2001.


  • Provenance
    Galerie Meyer Kainer, Vienna
    Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 2002

    Vienna, Albertina, Body and Language, 2009
    Vienna, Albertina, Albertina Contemporary, 2011

    Franz West's fame in the Fine and Applied Arts echoes his joy of creating an interactive dialogue with his audience. His installations are as rich in references to the greatest sculptors of the Twentieth Century as they are playful exercises defying all rules of classic good-taste. The present work is nothing short of an icon – bridging the role of indoor sculptures and outdoor installations, it is meant to be touched, sat on and marvelled at. Whether elegantly displayed on a plinth, such as during its inclusion in the museum-show at the Albertina in Vienna or placed in a garden setting, this work captures the eye of any viewer, inviting them to interactively engage with it.

    The attraction is partly owed to the eccentric choice of colour, his signature pink-hues stand at the very top of the sought-after works and are of particular relevance amidst Franz West's oeuvre. The sugar-almond pastel promises a softness that cheekily unveils itself as an impish trick, as soon as the viewer touches the aluminium surface. Far from welcoming the sitter with comfort, the patch-worked composition of the sausage-like structure is brimming with self-assurance: a parody on industrial paint, a distortion of Lockheed aircrafts and a spoof of elegant streamlines. If there is one continuous trait throughout the oeuvre of Austrian artist Franz West it is his distinctive sense of humour. The artist, who remained a provocative figure until his untimely passing, marked all his works with a wink, light-hearted and wise at the same time. Wryly challenging our notions of kitsch and common-sense, his pastel palette and quirky forms create magical sceneries with childlike imagination, keeping alive a vivid power to surprise.

    The Twentieth Century has been marked by a succession of painterly revolutions, daring to free art from any predetermined constraint. Abstract Expressionism transformed the preconceived notions of rigidly applied paint into lively traces of interaction between the artist and his brushstrokes. In the 1960s, the movement known as Viennese Actionism pushed the boundaries even further. Leaving behind the canvas as medium, it expanded the notion of the art-work to the pure act of creation and the impact upon its audience; these performances broke all possible taboos and openly referred to self-mutilation and other forms of physical violence. Franz West, younger by a generation, witnessed the impact of this shock-wave movement. He would engage just as intensely with his environment, but in a far more subtle and ironic way. Inviting the viewers to pick up the artworks, Franz West's Passstücke are a key to understanding his practice. As portable sculptures these 'fitting pieces', known as 'Adaptives' are designed to be tried on and worn. An extension of the own body, they come to life when fitted onto another organism, weirdly extending natural shapes like an amorphous prosthesis. Their soft contours fit snugly under the arms or around the neck, on ones back or on top of the head – they embrace the human form, distort it and for a brief moment in time give birth to odd new humanoid creatures. The act of trying them on, seeing how they fit and adapt, mesh and match with the body can be described as ritual, mimicking ceremonious processions. But most importantly these moments are playful interactions between the artworks and a participating public.

    Franz West's creations are never only a half-hearted prank, from the elaborate papier-maché, plaster or steel sculptures to the oversized lamps, from his earliest, intimate collages to the publicly displayed, haunting Lemuren-heads, they are always on the verge of political cynicism and the derision of society.

    The artist has been widely recognized in the world's most important institutions from the MoMA P.S.1 New York to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, from the Secession, Vienna, the Fondation Beyeler, Basel to the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London. Having represented Austria at the Venice Biennale in 1993, he returned in 2011 to be honoured with the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievements.
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