Erwin Wurm: Dignity — at Thaddaeus Ropac, Salzburg Villa Kast

Erwin Wurm
Thaddaeus Ropac, Salzburg Villa Kast
Mirabellplatz 2, A-5020 Salzburg
27 March—12 June 2021
All images copyright and courtesy of the artist(s) and Thaddaeus Ropac, Salzburg Villa Kast

Erwin Wurm’s new series of works comprises marble sculptures in the shapes of sausages, bread rolls and gherkins that are presented in oversized dimensions.

In his works, the artist repeatedly addresses the subject of social shells that serve to shape both our individual and our collective identity. The absurd pursuit of securing a social or even physical ‘fat cushion’ is often highlighted, while an insatiable desire for food or consumption can be interpreted as compensation for existential insecurity. The act of absorption is often a central concept in Wurm’s works, as is the relationship between the internal and the external. 

As inherently stuffed objects, sausages and their cultural significance have become a symbol of inner and social conflicts for Wurm. Sausages were an everyday food during his childhood, and to this day he associates them with his environment at the time and the societal norms that went with it. In German-speaking countries in particular, the sausage is a cultural asset in a sense and has many associations, ranging from traditional values to environmental critique.

The titles of the sculptures reference various virtues that contrast with the motifs connoted with indulgence or even gluttony. The materiality of the glossy, polished marble also contrasts with the triviality of its form, evoking associations with classical figures of antiquity. Their curved forms can be interpreted in this context as an ironic reference to traditional figurative ideals such as Contrapposto or Figura serpentinata

The humanisation of these food items blurs the boundary between the object and the body. The sausages and gherkins – recurring motifs in the artist’s works – become monuments to the domination of consumption over the human individual. 

Wurm lives and works in Vienna and Limberg, Austria. The artist has twice participated in the Venice Biennale: with his installation Narrow House at the Palazzo Cavalli-Franchetti in 2011 and when he represented Austria in 2017. Recent solo museum exhibitions have been held at the MEP, Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris (2020); Taipei Fine Arts Museum (2020); Museum Jorn, Silkeborg (2019); Musée Cantini, [mac] Musée d’Art Contemporain, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Marseille (2019); Albertina, Wien (2018); Kunstmuseum Luzern (2018); Public Art Fund, New York (2018); Lehmbruck Museum, Duisburg (2017); Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, São Paulo (2017); and MKM Museum Küppersmühle für Moderne Kunst, Duisburg (2017).