Thomas Schütte

Thomas Schütte
Born (1954-11-16) November 16, 1954
Oldenburg, West Germany
Nationality Germany
Education Kunstakademie Düsseldorf
Known for Sculpture

Thomas Schütte (born November 16, 1954) is a German contemporary artist. He lives and works in Düsseldorf.


From 1973 to 1981 Schütte studied art at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf alongside Katharina Fritsch under Gerhard Richter, Fritz Schwegler, Daniel Buren and Benjamin Buchloh.[1]


Kirschensäule (Cherry Column) at Skulptur Projekte Münster

Schütte's multidisciplinary work ranges widely, from early architectural installations to small-scale modeled figures and proposals for monuments, from extensive series of watercolors, to banners, flags, and photographs.[2]


From life-sized figures fabricated in ceramic as in Die Fremden (The Strangers) (1992) to miniaturized monuments cast in bronze as in Grosser Respekt (1993–94), Schütte has exploited transitions in scale and materials to great effect throughout his career.[3]

Initially exhibited at documenta IX in Kassel where they were placed on the portico of the former Roten Palais of the Landgrafen von Hessen, which currently houses a large department store, Die Fremden (The Strangers) overlooked the city. The convoys of refugees from the First Gulf War (1991), and the burning down of refugee shelters for asylum seekers in Germany, formed the contemporary political backdrop to these ceramic figures, which caused a stir at documenta.[4]

Mann im Matsch of 1982 was the very first figure Schütte made.[5] In his works from 1992-1993 – such as Vorher-Nacher (Before After), Grosse Köpfe (Large Heads), Untitled '93, Janus Kopf (Janus Head), and Ohne titel (Doppelkopf) (Untitled (Double head)) (1993) -- exaggerated physiognomies were transferred to a larger scale and a more traditional material. United Enemies, made between 1993 and 1997, is a series which comprises over 30 works with figures made out of Fimo modelling clay and ‘dressed’ in various fabrics and displayed under glass domes. Schütte made eighteen similar sculptures each comprising a pair of small male forms bound together with masking tape and medical sticking plaster;[6] there are also a small number of three-figure works and a few single figures.[7]

In the early 2000s Schütte began a series of small sculptural works depicting men stuck in mud.[8] Completed between 1995 and 2004, Schütte created seventeen different versions of his Grosse Geister (Big Spirits), each in an edition of three and each of the three in a different medium: aluminum, polished bronze, or steel. No two of these works are exactly alike.[9] The eighteen[10] Frauen (Women, 1998–2006), a sculptural series of large, reclining women (first cast in steel in 1998, and after 2000, in bronze),[11] are a pastiche of sculptures by Auguste Rodin, Henry Moore, and Pablo Picasso. The Kreuzzug Modelle series (Crusade Models, 2002–6) features architectural models made in the wake of 9/11. Three Capacity Men (2005) is a sculpture of three grotesque male figures swathed in blankets and peering malevolently in all directions.[12] The almost six-metre-high bronze sculpture Mann im Matsch (Man in Mud) was installed in the artist’s hometown of Oldenburg in 2009.[13]

Architecture models

Throughout the 1980s, Schütte created series of scale-model sculptural houses and works for a utopian architecture with such models as Westkunst, Studio I and Studio II, House 3: House for two friends, Landhaus (Country House) (1986), E.L.S.A., W.A.S., or H.Q.. Undertaken in 1981 for a large group exhibition entitled 'Westkunst' in Cologne, the artist's series Plans I-XXX undertake a similar project; stripped of detail and style, the works depict skyscrapers, churches, telecommunications towers amongst other architectural features.[14] Later projects, such as One Man Houses (2005) concentrated on the notion of being useful; they are intended to be realized and to be built.[15]

In 2012, Schütte built Ferienhaus für Terroristen (Holiday Home for Terrorists), a house based on the artist’s 2006-07 architectural model and commissioned by Polish art dealer Rafael Jablonka for the town of Mösern in western Austria.[16]


14 Skizzen zum Projekt Großes Theater (14 Sketches for Large Theatre, 1980) comprised a series of photographs of theatrical models featuring Princess Leia action figures striking various poses in front of banner-like fragments: ‘Freedom’; ‘In the Name of the People’; ‘Pro Status Quo’.[17]

Throughout his career, Schütte has painted the human figure. For a series of self-portraits in 1975, he based himself on a photograph. Later ‘portraits’ are not reproductions but inventions, stereotypes, anonymous studies, or caustic caricatures, such as his Criminali series of bald-headed criminals (1992). The Luise series of drawings (1996) was the first time he had worked directly in front of a model.[18]


Die Fremden (The Strangers) for documenta IX

Regularly exhibiting in Germany from the mid-1980s, Schütte had his first US solo show in New York at Marian Goodman Gallery in 1989.[19] From September 24, 1998 to June 18, 2000 the Dia Center for the Arts mounted a three-part survey of Schütte's work. The first, "Scenewright" (September 24, 1998 - January 24, 1999) focused on theater-related projects. "Gloria in Memoria" (February 4 - June 13, 1999) dealt with death with a somewhat morbid sense of humor, as in his memorial to Alain Colas, which pictures the famous sailor and daredevil bobbing in the water, surprised at his own death. The third installment, "In Media Res", included large ceramic heads and massive, battered bronze nudes. In 2007 he made Model for a Hotel, an architectural model of a 21-storey building made from horizontal panes of yellow, blue and red glass and weighing more than eight tonnes, for the Fourth Plinth of Trafalgar Square.[20] In recent years the Vier Grosse Geister group of sculptures has appeared on Der Graben, the famous shopping street in downtown Vienna (2011), and in the grounds of the Villa Schöningen in Potsdam (2010).[21]

Schütte had one-man shows at venues including the Serpentine Galleries, London (2012);[22] Kunstmuseum Winterthur, Winterthur, Switzerland (2003) (later travelled to the Museum of Grenoble and K21, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf[23]); Folkwang Museum, Essen (2002); Sammlung Goetz, Munich (2001); a survey in three parts at Dia Center for the Arts, New York (1998-2000); Serralves Foundation, Portugal (1998); De Pont Foundation, Tilburg, (1998); Kunsthalle, Hamburg (1994); ARC Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (1990); as well as the Stedelijk van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, (1990).[24] His monumental sculpture "Vater Staat" was displayed at Kunsthalle Mainz, Germany in 2013.[25]

Schütte participated in documenta in Kassel three times; in 2005, he was awarded the Golden Lion for Best Artist at the Venice Biennial.


Schütte's work is held in the collections of the Tate,[26] the Clark Art Institute,[27] MoMA,[28] and the Art Institute of Chicago.[29]


Schütte has received numerous awards, including the Kurt Schwitters Preis für Bildende Kunst der Niedersächsischen Sparkassenstiftung, 1998, and the Kunstpreis der Stadt Wolfsburg, Germany, 1996.[30] In 2005, he was warded the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale for his work in María de Corral's exhibition "The Experience of Art".[31] He was awarded the Düsseldorf Prize in 2010, previously given to Bruce Nauman, Marlene Dumas, and Rosemarie Trockel.

Art market

A cast aluminum sculpture by Schütte, Großer Geist No. 16 (2002), an eight-foot-tall sculpture of a ghostly figure, sold for $4.1 million at Phillips de Pury & Company in 2010.[32] Großer Geist Nr. 6 (1996), a bronze figure with green patina, fetched $5.3 million at Christie's New York in 2014.[33]


  1. Quinn Latimer (October 2009), Thomas Schütte, Haus der Kunst Frieze Magazine, Issue 26.
  3. Thomas Schütte, United Enemies, 1994-1995 Phillips de Pury & Company, New York.
  4. Thomas Schütte, Die Fremden (The Strangers) (1992) Fondation Beyeler, Riehen.
  5. Thomas Schütte, United Enemies (2011) Fondation Beyeler, Riehen.
  6. Thomas Schütte, [no title] (1993) Tate Collection.
  7. Thomas Schütte, United Enemy, 1995 Phillips de Pury & Company, London.
  8. Quinn Latimer (October 2009), Thomas Schütte, Haus der Kunst Frieze Magazine, Issue 26.
  9. Press Release: Carte Blanche auction and Part 1 Contemporary Art Evening Sale, November 8, 2010 Phillips de Pury & Company, New York.
  10. Thomas Schütte, Stahlfrau Nr. 16 (Steel Woman No. 16) (2004) Fondation Beyeler, Riehen.
  11. Thomas Schütte, Woman (2000) Kunsthalle Bielefeld.
  12. Holland Cotter (July 21, 2011), When Repression Was a Muse New York Times.
  13. Quinn Latimer (October 2009), Thomas Schütte, Haus der Kunst Frieze Magazine, Issue 26.
  14. Thomas Schütte, Die Burg (1884) Christie's Post War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction, 11 October 2012, London.
  15. Thomas Schütte: One Man Houses, May 12 - July 2, 1905 Marian Goodman Gallery, New York.
  16. Julia Michalska (November 14, 2012), Thomas Schütte builds a home for terrorists in the Tyrol The Art Newspaper.
  17. Quinn Latimer (October 2009), Thomas Schütte, Haus der Kunst Frieze Magazine, Issue 26.
  18. Thomas Schütte, Luise (1996) Fondation Beyeler, Riehen.
  19. Michael Brenson (March 17, 1989), A Show's Instructive Provocation New York Times.
  20. Adrian Searle, The Guardian, Nov 8, 2007.
  21. Thomas Schütte, Vier Grosse Geister (2003) Fondation Beyeler, Riehen.
  22. Thomas Schütte: Faces & Figures (2012)
  23. Adrian Searle (27 July 2004), Is that allowed? The Guardian.
  24. Thomas Schütte: One Man Houses, May 12 - July 2, 2005 Marian Goodman, New York.
  25. Reich ohne Mitte, Thomas Schuette und Danh Vo, August 5 - October 6, 2013 Kunsthalle Mainz.
  29. Thomas Schütte, May 15 - June 28, 2003 Marian Goodman, New York.
  30. Roderick Conway Morris (June 14, 2005), Pushing boundaries at Venice Biennale New York Times.
  31. Carol Vogel (November 8, 2010), Records Fall at Auction of Contemporary Masters New York Times.
  32. Thomas Schütte, Großer Geist Nr. 6 (1996) Christie's New York, 12 May 2014.

External links

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