To Build a House You Start With the Roof

To Build a House You Start With the Roof

The Baltimore Museum of Art

Franz West.
The Ego and the Id. 2008. Installation at BMA.
Courtesy of Eva Presenhuber Gallery, Zürich.
Copyright Franz West.
Photographer Mitro Hood

November 13, 2008


WORK, 1972–2008

Through January 4

10 Art Museum Drive
MD 21218

“West’s sculptures are like theatrical props, the gallery is the stage they decorate, and you’re on set as the star of the production.” – The Washington Post 

The Baltimore Museum of Art has organized the first comprehensive survey in the United States of Franz West, an internationally acclaimed Austrian artist whose singular vision has resulted in one of the most remarkable bodies of work produced since the 1960s. The exhibition includes 117 objects that reflect West’s extraordinary innovations in sculpture, design, and on paper—ranging from early interactive works from the 1970s to an enormous brightly colored object created for this exhibition.

Known for his intriguing sculptures, provocative collages, and giant outdoor installations, Franz West (b. 1947) has played a critical role in redefining the possibilities of sculpture as a social and environmental experience for the past three decades. His manipulation of found materials, papier-mâché, and furniture is unlike any other in appearance and application. Though fundamentally sculptural in its construction, his work veers towards the biomorphic and prosthetic, mines the intellectualism of Freud and Wittgenstein, and possesses a sly wit and awkward beauty that speaks with equal fluency to the aesthetics of painterly abstraction and trash art.

The exhibition is organized as a series of mini-installations that invite visitors to encounter and occasionally touch a range of objects beginning with a 25-foot tall aluminum sculpture titled The Ego and the Id (2008) making its debut in Baltimore. Subsequent rooms include cabinets and chairs that infuse the art environment with the culture of bars, cafés, and domestic life (1990s); a large room with papier-mâché groupings and free-standing sculptures; a space with beautiful but precarious-looking works (1980-1990s); and human-scaled plaster sculptures called Adaptives (1970s) tinged by the violet hue of West’s floor lamps. Throughout the exhibition, groupings of the artist’s collages show the often cheeky influence of comic books, pop culture, and advertising.

The exhibition is organized by The Baltimore Museum of Art and curated by Darsie Alexander, Senior Curator of Contemporary Art. It travels to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art March 15 – June 7, 2009.

A fully illustrated catalogue written by Darsie Alexander mixes intense visual content with critical commentary, an interview with the artist, a section on West’s working methods, an artist’s response to the work through words and images, and an extensive biography and chronology. Essay contributors are Tom Eccles, Rachel Harrison, and Eric Banks. Co-published with MIT Press. Hardcover 288 pages, 168 color illustrations.

This exhibition is generously sponsored by Howard Brown, The Alvin and Fanny Blaustein Thalheimer Exhibition Endowment Fund, and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. It is generously supported by Constance R. Caplan, Suzanne F. Cohen and the Suzanne F. Cohen Exhibition Fund, Stiles Tuttle Colwill and Jonathan Gargiulo, Nancy Dorman and Stanley Mazaroff, Ellen W. P. Wasserman, the BMA Friends of Modern and Contemporary Art, Sandra Levi Gerstung, an anonymous donor, Amalia Dayan and Adam Lindemann, Sylvia Cordish, Andrew and Christine Hall, Monroe Denton, Aaron and Barbara Levine, and Lin Lougheed. Additional funding is provided by Austrian Airlines and The Austrian Cultural Forum, New York.


Fri – Dec 5, 7 pm
Tickets on sale at 6 pm on Dec 5
Beatboxers, DJs, musicians, poets, and spoken-word artists are invited to submit creative responses to the exhibition. Vote for your favorite submission through December 1 on YouTube The winners will perform during this special late-night event.

For general Museum information, call 443-573-1700 or visit ARTBMA.ORG

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The Baltimore Museum of Art
November 13, 2008

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