Thomas Schütte: United Enemies

About the Exhibition

Towering in cast bronze, it is astonishing that Thomas Schütte’s United Enemies has its origins in a series of small figures the artist made with modeling clay in the early 1990s. Schütte (b. 1954, Oldenburg, Germany) conceived the series during a residency in Italy at a time when several politicians had been arrested for corruption. These figures, however, are mythical characters rather than specific individuals. Their paired forms are highly abstracted, with heads emerging from swaddling robes that conceal their limbs. Faces are aged and anguished, rendered in soft focus to suggest the waning power of would-be patriarchs. In contrast, the tightly knotted rope that binds them is sharply detailed, drawing the figures — and our eyes — into focus.

Monumental bronze statuary is among the most traditional forms of public art. The artist’s choice of Central Park for the display of this work places it in dialogue with that tradition. With typical inventiveness, Schütte has taken a conventional form and made it relevant. His colossal figures do not stand heroically atop a classical pedestal but seem to stagger, earthbound, on tripods of bundled poles. Struggling to be rid of its mate, each figure is nevertheless incapable of standing alone. They have become potent contemporary metaphors: sculpted giants that simultaneously resonate with the mythological, the political, and the personal.

This exhibition is curated by Nicholas Baume.



Doris C. Freedman Plaza

Central Park, 60th Street & 5th Avenue

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About the Artist

Schütte work has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions at institutions including the Serpentine Gallery, London (2012); Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain (2011); Haus der Kunst, Munich (2009); Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein (2008); Museu Serralves, Portugal (2006); the Kunstmuseum Winterthur, Winterthur, Switzerland (2003); Dia Center for the Arts, New York (a survey in three parts, 1998-2000); Serralves Foundation, Portugal (1998); Kunsthalle, Hamburg (1994); ARC Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (1990); as well as the Stedelijk van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, (1990). His work is included in the permanent collections of most major international museums, including: Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Reina Sofia, Madrid; Tate, London; Dallas Museum; Art Institute of Chicago; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and Museum of Modern Art, New York.