Katharina Fritsch

A fundamental concept of Katharina Fritsch’s work is what might be called the department-store mentality. Her sculptural approach evolves from the idea of the presentation of the multiple: 288 lemon-yellow plaster madonnas, 145 white vases with a steamship motif, 4 money crates bearing a total of 25,000 aluminum plates, and 55 silk scarves in green, white, black, and red, all bearing the printed image of St. Martin. Under the artist’s guidance, individual objects have been industrially fabricated and multiplied. Contrary to what we might think , these are not readymades. Their character is emphasized by their display, which recalls racks in a store. A pyramidal structure of vases—Warengestell mit Vasen (Product display with vases, 1987–89)—rises from a square base reaching a height of nine feet. The gigantic collection of madonnas Warengestell mit Madonnen (Product display with madonnas, 1987-89) looms to the same height, but is cylindrical in shape. In both cases, the objects within the structures are also the support components of the construction. The same is true of the four money crates, each containing neatly arranged perforated minting plates. In this way, Fritsch’s work is dictated by a maniacal orderliness.

On the other hand, organized chaos characterizes the artist’s rummage counter holding silk scarves. But even here, we can subliminally recognize a light and airy construction that is pyramidal in the broadest sense of the word. Piled-up vases, madonnas in a circle, money in open chests, and precious-looking textiles are the symbolic conveyors and mediators, while the circle, square, tower, and pyramid are the sculptural conveyors and mediators of profanely hawked collective images. Fritsch juxtaposes the emotional, symbolic content of the objects she makes against the banality of industrial production. She ties her art somewhat to the ubiquity of consumer goods, while explicitly stating its character as an artwork. (A sign at the rummage counter says, “Do Not Touch!”) Her objects look highly familiar, yet because of their altered status, they become exotic,even fantastic. By subjecting familiar icons to changes in both production and meaning, Fritsch encourages a more fluid mode of reading and perception.

Norbert Messler

Translated from the German by Joachim Neugroschel.