Guggenheim Museum/ DelMonico/Prestel, 379 pp., $52.00
Delightful and funny aren’t words one regularly associates with contemporary art, but they certainly fit aspects of the work of Peter Fischli and David Weiss. At least, I heard a fair amount of giggling at the Guggenheim Museum’s beautifully laid-out retrospective of the Swiss collaborative team. Not that they were exactly entertainers. (One speaks of their partnership in the past tense because, although Fischli is sixty-three, Weiss died in 2012, at sixty-five.) In work straddling photography, sculpture, films, installation art, and much else, they were more like wry magicians—and magicians with an underlying moral bent.
Their subject was the everyday, or real, world we all see and don’t pay much attention to and the random notions and musings that pass through our minds and that we tend to forget. Gentle, playful, and ironic, they sought to reshape ordinary and omnipresent objects and thoughts—without, in the process, losing sight of the ordinariness. Their ultimate point, one believes, was a kind of reclamation of the ignored.
The Guggenheim’s show provides the first comprehensive look New York has had of artists whose names have been familiar in the art world, and who have been seen in good-sized shows that traveled to American cities in previous years, but who remain, I think, barely known to the general museum-going public. The Zurich-based duo, who met in 1977—they connected through the new punk rock scene of that moment, which also influenced art and political activism—were in tune with each other from the first (and Fischli, since his partner’s death, has continued on projects left unfinished). Many of the hallmarks of the vast amount of work they created in the thirty-three years that they functioned together are present in their first venture. Called Sausage Series (and made before they thought of themselves as a team), it is comprised of a number of color photographs that…
This article is available to subscribers only.
Please choose from one of the options below to access this article:
Purchase a print subscription (20 issues per year) and also receive online access to all articles published within the last five years.
Purchase an Online Edition subscription and receive full access to all articles published by the Review since 1963.
Purchase a trial Online Edition subscription and receive unlimited access for one week to all the content on nybooks.com.