Artist duos are not a rare phenomenon in the art world. Such a formation gives them a perfect opportunity to reexamine their individual standpoints and construct something new through a dialog. When it comes to sculpture, one of the leading artist duos on a global scale is definitely Elmgreen & Dragset.
Namely, Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset started collaborating in the mid-1990s by reinterpreting traditional sculptural language in a critically charged and humorous manner. Their practice can be perceived as a hybrid due to their specific approach which is rooted in performativity. The duo gained critical acclaim after site specifics such as the forever-closed Prada boutique in the West Texas desert, the works presented in Danish and Nordic Pavilions at 2009 Venice Biennale, or the giant swimming pool Van Gogh’s Ear at Rockefeller Plaza in 2016.
This autumn, Elmgreen & Dragset will have the first survey of their practice in the US at The Nasher Sculpture Center. It will offer new analyzes of their domains primarily in the context of the use and organization of public space.
This exhibition will furthermore unravel the duo’s exceptional embrace of multiple working methods and aesthetics indicating the presences of post-Minimalist tendencies, conceptual strategies, and the figurative sculpture tradition. It will also reflect upon an array of the most dominant themes present in their work, spanning from sexuality, institutional structures, youth and aging, and the issues concerning public space.
The exhibition will include early Elmgreen & Dragset sculptures alongside recent works produced for this survey. Some of the highlights will be reenacted versions of Traces of a Never Existing History/Powerless Structures, Fig. 222 as well the fourth edition of their Diaries series of durational performances.
A fully illustrated catalog will accompany the exhibition; it will be the first publication entirely devoted to their practice, with an introduction by Dr. Leigh Arnold and a few scholarly essays.
Elmgreen & Dragset: Sculptures will be on view at Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, Texas, from 14 September 2019 until 5 January 2020.
To bring you closer to the work of Elmgreen & Dragset, we are featuring seven sculptures they made in the past few years, and which are about to be displayed within the upcoming exhibition.
Featured image: Elmgreen & Dragset - He (Silver), 2013. Epoxy resin, polyurethane cast, silver coating, clear lacquer, 190 x 140 x 100 cm. Courtesy: Galerie Perrotin. Photo by: Holger Hoenck. All images courtesy Nasher Sculpture Center.
The first artwork on our top list is called Modern Moses and was made by Elmgreen & Dragset in 2006. This sculptural formation consists of a baby in a portable carrycot standing abandoned in front of a cash machine. The work tackles social and economic issues present on a global scale; it deals with the matters of care, responsibility and social discrepancy.
Featured image: Elmgreen & Dragset - Modern Moses, 2006. Carrycot, bedding, wax figure, baby clothes, stainless steel cash machine. Carrycot: ca. 16 x 71 x 37 cm; cash machine: 96.5 x 63.8 x 43.5 cm. Courtesy: the artists. Photo by: Eric Gregory Powell.
The following sculpture called He was made in 2013 and it refers directly to the famous The Little Mermaid, one of Copenhagen’s landmarks. Initially, it was commissioned as public sculpture for a Denmark seaside located in front of the iconic castle Kronborg, a place where Shakespeare imagined Hamlet to live. The position of a male figure is the same as The Little Mermaid’s, as well as the shape of the stone upon which she sits. Interestingly so, the figure is supported a hydraulic mechanism so it can shut its eyes every hour.
Featured image: Elmgreen & Dragset - He (Silver), 2013. Epoxy resin, polyurethane cast, silver coating, clear lacquer, 190 x 140 x 100 cm. Courtesy: Galerie Perrotin. Photo by: Holger Hoenck.
Next up is the installation One Day focused on the theme of desire presented in a most cynical manner. Namely, it features a figure of a sculpture of a young boy staring at a rifle mounted on a wall. The piece deals with the issues of children curiosity, innocence, growing up, and power.
Featured image: Elmgreen & Dragset - One Day, 2015. Aluminium, lacquer, glass, wood, fabric, clothes. Boy: 104 x 40 x 40 cm; vitrine: 55 x 145 x 20 cm. Courtesy: the artists. Photo by: Holger Hönck.
The sculpture Watching produced by Elmgreen & Dragset in 2016 features a man sitting on a lifeguard chair, looking through binoculars. The scene recalls suspense whether something has happened or is about to happen. The lifeguard is yet another example of a solitary male figure often present in the duo’s work. The grey surface of the sculpture produces quite a tactile effect and accentuates the details such as the lifeguard’s muscles and hair.
Featured image: Elmgreen & Dragset – Watching, 2016. Mirror-polished stainless steel, 320 x 100.2 x 84.9 cm. Courtesy: Galerie Perrotin. Photo by: Steven Probert.
The following artwork called Pregnant White Maid is a human-size figure cast in bronze and painted white modeled after a real-life housemaid; it belongs to ongoing maids series started by the duo in 2006. The sculpture is a commentary on a bourgeois notion of the household staff as status symbols, with a special twist – the maid is still working although she is pregnant.
Featured image: Elmgreen & Dragset - Pregnant White Maid, 2017. Aluminum, stainless steel, lacquer, clothes, 168 x 45 x 66 cm. Courtesy: Galerie Perrotin. Photo by: Elmar Vestner.
The sculptural constellation called Invisible depicts a small and apparently frightened boy in a school uniform hidden inside a grandiose black marble fireplace. The work apparently questions the violence to which this little boy was exposed to whether at home or in school.
Featured image: Elmgreen & Dragset – Invisible, 2017. Bronze, marble, wood, lacquer, clothes, freplace: H125 x W86 x D45cm. boy: H62 x W26 x D64cm. Courtesy: Galerie Perrotin. Photo by: Elmar Vestner.
The last artwork on our top list functions similarly to the aforementioned Watching, although the observer is not a human but an animal – a vulture. A mirror polished stainless steel predator looks for prey which implies the inversion of meaning typical for the duo. Here the lifeguard does not symbolize safety and trust, but rather a threat.
Featured image: Elmgreen & Dragset - Lifeguard, 2018. Mirror-polished stainless steel, 300 x 100 x 85 cm. Courtesy: Galerie Perrotin. Photo by: Elmar Vestner.