Luciano Fabro



Luciano Fabro 1936–2007
Original title
Marble, stainless steel and aluminium
Object: 75 x 11250 x 1500 mm
Presented by the Patrons of New Art through the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1989

Not on display


Ovaries, a floor-based sculpture, consists of two lengths of steel cable joined at both ends, which hold between them a series of eggs made of polished Carrara marble. This veined white marble, frequently used by the artist in his works, takes its name from the city off the northwestern coast of Italy where it is quarried. Although the steel cables are pulled to their full limit, internal tensions within each length ensure that each plots a different serpentine course on the floor. The torsion of the cables determines the number of eggs placed between them, which varies between 320 and 350.

This is one of three works with the same title made by Fabro in 1988 and only slightly differs from the other two in size (they are 9 and 12 metres in length respectively). All three Ovaries, however, are to be considered unique works rather than part of an edition. It is Fabro's practice to explore ideas through series of works on the same theme, and he has done so perhaps most famously in his Feet series of 1968-72 and in the Italys, which also started in 1968 but had a life span that lasted well over a decade.

A powerful symbol of birth and creation, the egg has been used by Fabro several times in his work since 1978, when he made I (The Egg). This consisted of a hollow bronze egg truncated at one end and gilt inside. Its dimensions were those of the artist in the foetal position and it is etched on the outside with the image of a man in the same pose. In Ovaries eggs are repeated almost obsessively in a line that is forced to follow the snakeing of the thick steel cables.

In this work the contrast between steel and marble and the combination of linear cables with organic, rounded eggs suggest an exploration of the relationship between nature and culture. The aseptic coupling of the natural and the artificial points perhaps to artificial methods of reproduction, almost evoking a coercion of nature through science. The appearance of the work, which recalls the long two-stranded chains that constitute DNA molecules, may also contribute to suggest a concern with genetic codes and the process of propagation.

In 1990 Fabro remarked that Ovaries 'constitute an ensemble par excellence, showing symmetry and also form as circumference. At the same time they are something that all females have, expressed here as a powerfully constructed image' (quoted in Luciano Fabro, 1992, p.96).

Giorgia Bottinelli
January 2001

Further reading:

Luciano Fabro, exhibition catalogue, Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco 1992, reproduced p.40 in colour
Jole de Sanna, Luciano Fabro: Biografia, Campanotto Editore, Pasian di Prato, Udine 1996, reproduced p.167

Display caption

In his work Fabro explores the symbolism of many different aspects of reality. His work thus takes many different forms, depending on the materials he uses. The egg is a symbol of birth and creation and is one of the few images that he has used several times. This particular piece, 'Ovaries', exists in three versions all with the same title. Here, Fabro sets up a powerful contrast between steel cable and marble eggs, perhaps evoking artificial versus natural means of production. He also said that a fertilised egg is a symbol of both male and female. The white ovoids might also suggest spermatozoa swimming between the cables.

Gallery label, September 2004