United Enemies


Patinated bronze

34 x 11 x 7 cm (13 3/8 x 4 5/16 x 2 3/4 in.)

The manipulation of scale is one of the driving principles behind the work of German sculptor Thomas Schütte. In the first models, the human figure is represented in the form of small toys, and later as silhouettes cut out of wood or plywood. A more realistic orientation was established in 1982 with Mann im Matsch, a small figure shaped by the artist, as if stuck on a miniature platform. From the mid-1980s onwards, the figure became more autonomous, with representations of heads and busts, and the introduction, on a reduced scale, of figurines whose heads made of FIMO (a type of modelling clay) are stuck on sticks surrounded by pieces of fabric taken from the artist's clothes.

United Enemies is a sculpture from an eponymous series of grotesque people begun in 1992 which typifies Schütte's work, conceived in reaction to a political corruption scandal. The artist says that when he exhibited these two little grinning heads, “nobody wanted to look at them: they were simply too small.” He therefore decided to photograph them in close-up, thus directing the viewer's gaze to the broad range of expressions expressed by these double figures, forced to live together, staring each other down.

As Thomas Schütte declares that he is “not afraid of history, nor of scale, nor of colour,” can we see in these two figures placed side by side the reunification of Germany, the coming together of two entities divided in the collective consciousness?