Thomas Schütte at Fondation Beyeler

Me Memorial, 2007–2009, glazed ceramic, 21 x 26 x 55 cm © 2013, ProLitteris, Zurich. Photo: Nic Tenwiggenhorn

German sculptor and draftsman Thomas Schütte has received great acclaim for his work, which demonstrates a daring spirit of experimentation and nimbly slides past attempts at easy classification. The art critic Adrian Hamilton once gushed of Schütte’s work: “None have managed to take monumental sculpture and intimate drawing and make it their own in quite the way that Schütte has done.” Indeed, this autumn the Fondation Beyeler pays tribute to this sentiment with over-lifesize steel women, caricatured figurines moulded from modeling clay, delicate watercolour portraits and self-portraits drawn in front of the shaving mirror – all of which come together in an oddly yet enchantingly congruent exhibition that gives visitors insight into Schütte’s complex creative process. 

Those attending the exhibition will be thrilled by the masterful interplay of large and small, monumentality and intimacy that characterize Schutte’s work in relation to the museum space. His individual drawings are charmingly eclectic, with Luise arising from his enjoyment of objects and flowers in their commonplace beauty, while Aufzeichnungen aus der 2. Reihe (Notes from the 2nd Row) appears to come from an attempt at creating a visual diary. The brevity of these drawings and watercolours come as an interesting contrast to the material gravity of his more famous sculptures.

His United Enemies plasticine figures are also displayed at the exhibition, startling viewers with their astonishingly doll-like, arts-and-crafts appearance.  These are, however, uncannily juxtaposed against four-metre-tall bronze sculptures that throw the viewer’s sense of scale into disorientation, resulting in an effect that straddles the fine line between monstrously overblown and delicately beautiful. Schütte has said that “the beautiful things, they take a long time” – certainly, to witness his artistic development through display of his work produced over the last twenty years is a beautiful, even contemplative experience. 

Thomas Schütte’s show at the Fondation Beyeler will run until 2 February.

Fondation Beyeler, Beyeler Museum AG, Baselstrasse 77, CH-4125 Riehen, Switzerland 

Images courtesy of the artist, the Fondation Beyeler and the photographers.

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