Untitled (Lamp/Bear) brightly celebrates the objects that define a young child's life. Urs Fischer realized this striking sculpture on a monumental scale, combining a canary yellow teddy bear, everyone's cherished childhood keepsake, with a bedroom desk lamp. The lamp neatly bisects the bear, casting a shadow over its face, while a forlorn black button eye peers out from underneath. The bear's inanimate body flops forward, lovingly care worn, resting against the support of the lamp stand. The first out of a series of two works, the sculpture starkly defies its facture. Fischer made the bear in Untitled (Lamp/Bear), not out of softly comforting fur and foam, but out of bronze, a rich material that reflects the personal value a young owner places upon a toy. The sculpture evokes permanence, weighing close to seventeen tons, contrasting with much of the artist's oeuvre to date, such as his ephemeral Untitled (Bread House) (2004-2005). The giant lamp is a functioning beacon that lightens up outdoor space at night, defining its surroundings and illuminating the giant teddy bear. This playful and humorous work depicts an everyday object surreally, uncannily. It parallels Jeff Koons's public monuments, such as Koons's monumental Puppy (1992) - housed in the forum outside the Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao - or his Celebration series of balloon animals blown up to fantastic proportions. Untitled (Lamp/Bear) was exhibited to great acclaim at the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam. It is the most significant work by the artist to be offered at auction to date.
Born in 1973, Urs Fischer began his career in Switzerland where he studied photography at the Schule fur Gestaltung, Zurich. These formative years deeply informed the artist's practice, instilling his sculptures with a photorealism so evident in the carefully realized Untitled (Lamp/Bear). In spite of the work's apparent simplicity, Fischer always employs a process of detailed planning and intricate artisanship in creating his sculpture. Fischer generated digital studies for the production of Untitled (Lamp/Bear) as a point of departure and employed laser and mechanical expertise to bring the sculpture to life. To establish the composition, he created a 12 inch high replica of his stuffed teddy bear from childhood, sewing its various elements together by hand. Fischer selected a generic Bakelite lamp and conjoined the two elements through digital manipulation. Fischer enlisted the assistance of the University of Applied Sciences St. Gallen, Switzerland and their laser technology to establish an exact imprint of both items, digitally scaling them up to over 22 feet in height. He chose this immense scale not through any particular rule, but through considering the reaction it might elicit from its viewers. As Fischer once suggested "What determines the ultimate size of each object is based on architectural reasoning. Architecture always takes into consideration the spatial confrontation between you and a thing" (U. Fischer, quoted in M. Gioni, "This is my Grandmother she Makes Really Genius Cakes", in U. Fischer and A. Zachery (eds.), Urs Fischer: Shovel in a Hole, New York, 2009, p.60). The image of the assembled sculpture was later incarnated into a full-scale milled Styrofoam maquette and coated in polyurethane resin to be exhibited as an artist's proof alongside Fischer's other works at the Paris 1919 exhibition held at the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam. Following the exhibition, the prototype was brought to Shanghai to be cast into bronze and assembled with an operating light bulb of over 5 feet in diameter made out of acrylic. The surface of the lamp was patinated and the body of the teddy bear covered in matte yellow urethane paint to create an arresting, brightly colored and colossal outdoor sculpture.
Untitled (Lamp/Bear) forms part of a small series of works depicting quotidian objects which one would not normally expect to be combined. Fischer's Bad Timing, Lamb Chop! (2004-2005) - exhibited at Mapping the Studio: Artists from the Francois Pinault Collection, Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana, Venice (2009) - displays a giant wooden chair straddling a half empty packet of cigarettes, in a similar meditation on the Duchampian ready-made and the experience of contemporary life. When asked about his predilection for ordinary objects, Fischer once replied, "I don't find them dull. Maybe it's an obvious choice, but those are the things I relate to. What if I did a Fabergé egg? Would that be better? Even if I have nothing to do with it? I just use the stuff that's around me. And those objects, those domestic objects as you call them, are made in human scale, so they can also be related to humans. They're made by humans for humans. They speak about us" (U. Fischer, quoted in Ibid p.63). This approach resonates with Jeff Koons's sculptural works, such as Puppy (1992) in which Koons knowingly embraces high and low art, in homage to simple pleasures. In Untitled (Lamp/Bear) as in Koons's work, the artist invites the viewer to reconsider the banal and re-experience a childlike sense of awe and wonder, while standing in front of Fischer's giant teddy bear.
These works differ from the majority of Fischer's sculpture, where he brings objects into stark relief, not through the alienating effects of scale but through an emphasis on their transience. Many of his sculptures appear broken, excavated, decomposed or melted. In Untitled (Bread House) (2004-1005), Fischer constructs a Swiss style chalet entirely out of loaves of bread. Fischer placed an emphasis on the paradoxical interplay of creative destruction, allowing small birds to eat the structure, slowly demolishing it. Creative destruction is a theme that unites the artist's oeuvre. In You (2007) Fischer literally breaks ground to create a dramatic breach in Gavin Brown's gallery floor, juxtaposing the pristine white of the walls with the uneven dirt of an evacuated pit. In Untitled (Lamp/Bear), Fischer physically interpolated the teddy bear with the lamp in an act that is simultaneously destructive of each object but creative as a whole, effectively building a novel, animated and enigmatic monument to the human experience.
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Urs Fischer (b. 1973)
Cast bronze, epoxy primer, urethane paint, acrylic polyurethane topcoat, acrylic glass, gas discharge lamp, and stainless-steel framework
Urs Fischer , 21st Century, Sculptures, Statues & Figures, Switzerland, Contemporary
Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Urs Fischer--Paris 1919, April-May 2006, pp. 54-57, 77 and 83 (prototype exhibited, illustrated in color).
POST-WAR & CONTEMPORARY ART
275 5/8 x 255 7/8 x 295¼ in. (700 x 650 x 749.9 cm.)
C. Garcia, "Digging In," Art+Auction, October 2009, vol. XXXIII, no. 2, p. 41 (another example illustrated in color).
U. Fischer and A. Zachary, ed., Urs Fischer: Shovel in a Hole, New York, 2009, pp. 411-416 (another example illustrated in color).
Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich
Private collection, Paris
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner