Sir Eduardo Paolozzi



Not on display

Sir Eduardo Paolozzi 1924–2005
Gunmetal and brass
2337 × 597 × 635 mm
Presented by Tate Members 2007


Konsul is one of a series of tower sculptures that Paolozzi created in the early 1960s. It is a structure made up of box-like metal forms of slightly varying sizes which have been cast separately, stacked on top of one another and welded together. Some of panels on this four-sided structure are comparatively smooth and unadorned, others are embellished with reliefs of geometric, grid-like designs. The structure rises to a height of over two metres and is topped by three ‘antennae’.

In the late 1950s, Paolozzi’s sculptures focused on mechanized, robot-like figures, assemblages of industrial elements supported as if on two legs. These include The Philosopher 1957 (British Council, London) and His Majesty the Wheel 1958–9, (private collection) (reproduced in Kirkpatrick, p.42, figs.30 and 31). By the early 1960s, Paolozzi’s concerns had changed somewhat, and Konsul is representative of a new development in his work. It is one of a group of tower sculptures from this period; see, for example, Tyrannical Tower Crowned with Thorns of Violence 1961, (reproduced in Pearson p.37, fig.41) (National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh). While invoking machines, the tower sculptures can also been seen suggest oppressive architectural structures, specifically high rise blocks of flats with uniform windows. Here the sculptor has moved from a surrealist-inflected and brutalist outlook to privilege a more anonymous machine aesthetic with forms that are geometric rather than organic. However, Paolozzi retains the ironic anthropomorphic dimension of the earlier sculptures in the titles of some the works, as with Konsul. In the same year that he produced Konsul he also produced its mate, Bride of the Konsul (Pallant House Gallery, Chichester).

In 1960 Paolozzi took up a post as a visiting professor at the Hochschule für bildende Künst, Hamburg, where he stayed until 1962. In this period Germany was experiencing a post-war economic ‘miracle’ that centred on its engineering industries. The sculptor seems to be responding to the order and mechanization he found in Germany, which recalled the futuristic imagery of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927), one of his favourite films (Eduardo Paolozzi, p.19.) As other of the tower sculptures of this period, Konsul has a totemic quality that seems to exult the modern age while asserting its potential threat (the German title evokes a figure of authority). The industrially-inspired iconography of Konsul can be linked to the near contemporaneous screen-printed book Metafisikal Translations 1962 (P09056P09098; P09215P09216).

Paolozzi’s sculpture from this period is a form of industrial collage, an assemblage of ready-made objects (ordered from industrial catalogues) and parts made by specialists in precision engineering. In 1960 Paolozzi turned to an industrial pattern maker based in London and a precision engineering works in Ipswich to make these technically complex works. The artist completed the sculptures at the factory by welding the parts in place, thereby switching the creative dynamic from the studio to the factory shop floor. In the later 1960s Paolozzi moved away from using ready-made components in his sculptures. The City of the Circle and the Square 1963 and 1966 (T00638), which, as a tower sculpture topped by three antennae, closely resembles Konsul in terms of form, was made entirely from specially cast aluminium components that have been painted. Its smooth and coloured surfaces contrast strikingly with the rough-hewn quality of the earlier sculpture.

Further reading:
Robin Spencer, ed., Eduardo Paolozzi: Writings and Interviews, Oxford 2000.
Eduardo Paolozzi, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1971, reproduced p.18 and p.69.
Diane Kirkpatrick, Eduardo Paolozzi, London 1970, reproduced p.50.

Alice Sanger
March 2009

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Display caption

During the early 1960s, Paolozzi’s sculptures became tower block-like totems recalling brutalist architecture and the industrial machine. Stimulated by Germany’s tradition of engineering and architecture encountered during his time as a visiting professor in Hamburg (1960-62), he began to construct templates out of plywood which were then manufactured as machined units at the foundry. These, along with standard machine parts ordered from catalogues, were then taken to a factory where they were assembled, ‘like ships’, according to the artist’s instructions.

Gallery label, September 2016

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