The term ‘one of the world’s most influential living artists’ is bandied around far too gratuitously in our opinion, and it’s been used in the press release for Thomas Schutte’s latest exhibition examining portraiture through various media. So do his latest works live up to the hype?
We found his drawings and paintings disappointing, and more like preparatory works or experimentations rather than the finished article. However, it’s his sculptures that makes this exhibition shine.
At the centre of the gallery is ‘father state’ a tall and imposing figure who becomes more frail as your eyes move down him – to the point that even the outline of his legs aren’t visible through his robe. This is a commentary on how many leaders are presented to the public on television – a noble head and shoulders addressing the nation, with the rest of the body hidden behind a desk or lectern. Surrounding this figure are ghostly photographs of faces expressing anger or hurt, reflecting the persecution of a repressive regime. Complimenting yet contrasting with this is the work ‘Jerks’ that caricatures world leaders in the gallery next door.
Another highlight of this display is outside on the grass. Two monumental bronze sculptures display two sets of heads and torsos bound together on wooden supports. Their facial expressions range from serenity to anguish, yet the situation implies they’re about to be burnt alive. The title ‘united enemies’ suggests that mutual hatred results in the same fate for both parties.
Schutte’s display is a masterclass in how to create gripping and engaging sculptures, from the humorous to the political.
Thomas Schutte: Faces & Figures is on display in the Serpentine Gallery, Kensington Gardens until 18 November. Admission is free.
Also still open until 14 October is the innovative pavilion designed by Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei.