German sculptor and draughtsman. He studied at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf (1973–81). His early work consists of simple architectural models that suggest both ideal and quotidian living environments and draw attention to the social engineering involved in post-war reconstruction. His work also rejected Joseph Beuys's influential dictate of artist as social leader, taking instead a detached and often humorous view of contemporary life. Although his work has often been characterised as non-developmental, a preoccupation with figuration and human conditions became increasingly evident throughout the 1980s and 90s. Both in the extensive series of free-standing heads from the late 1980s, and in the Large Ghosts (three figures, cast aluminium, h. 2.5 m, 1996), a monumentally scaled group of organic/robotic figures, Schütte developed the expressive potential of human physiognomy. Schütte's full-scale public sculptures, such as Cherry Column (painted cast aluminium and sandstone, h. c6m, 1987; Munich, Skulptur Projekte Münster, see J. Heynen and others, pp. 120–23), an enlarged pair of cherries atop a column situated in the Münster Harsewinkelplatz, reflect upon the difficulties of reconciling progressive art and the need for public symbols. His work for the Haus das Gedenkens (1995), on the site of the former Neuengamme concentration camp in Hamburg, in which he temporarily abandoned his status as an artist, raises more serious questions concerning the creation of monuments in a public and historical setting. Schütte is also noted for his drawings and watercolours that take a diaristic format and are often presented in books and exhibitions as such.
J. Heynen, J. Lingwood and A. Vettese: Thomas Schütte (London, 1998)
10 December 2000
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