Fake/Function Thomas Schütte: Early Work

23 Sep 2007 – 6 Jan 2008

Henry Moore Institute

Leeds, United Kingdom


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Even before he left the Art Academy in Düsseldorf, Thomas Schütte's work was much in demand. This exhibition brings together the work he made in those years. It demonstrates how it set out to solve problems - often defined by the terms of the site and the commission - and how its use of illusion allowed it to hover on the threshold between the decorative and the applied, the fake and the functional.

In contrast with his later work, Schütte's early work was light-weight and variable in dimension. Using the techniques of both traditional stage design and of contemporary conceptual art, he deployed multiple components - wallpapers, bricks, tiles and rings - across the wall's surface. The resulting works have great charm, using minimal means to effect change. Alongside these illusory facades, the exhibition will show how Schütte used other classic decorative techniques - such as pairing, grouping and arranging - to question the nature of art and illusion.

In the late 1970s Schütte installed a number of these works in the Düsseldorf apartments of his friends and teachers including that of his tutor - the painter Gerhard Richter - and that of his fellow student, photographer Thomas Struth. These individual projects - comprising different kinds of wall-based works - were both art-works and interior schemes.

In 1980 the artist had his first chance to take stock of what he had been making and, in the gracious first-floor apartments of the Munich gallery of Rüdiger Schöttle, the work was brought together in what was revealed as a single project. The Henry Moore Institute will show this 'decorative' project, last seen over 25 years ago, along with other contemporary pieces which help to demonstrate how it was developed. Many of these works have never been exhibited before. The exhibition will not only showcase Schütte's illusionistic interior schemes, it will also reveal the underlying formalist interest in the use of staging and of transformative effects to take painting into the realm of sculpture.

Thomas Schütte (b.1954) has recently opened exhibitions of new work at the Frith Street Gallery (London) and Galerie Nelson-Freeman (Paris). He is part of this year's Skulptur Projekte Münster, and his project for the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square is currently under construction and will be unvieled later in the year.


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