Art Basel 2017 Market

Kiss Goodbye: Urs Fischer Does Rodin at Basel

Urs Fischer, The Kiss, 2017, at Sadie Coles HQ’s booth at Art Basel.


“Whoa,” I thought to myself this afternoon at Art Basel, “that woman is really giving that sculpture quite a grope!”

She was rubbing the roughly seven-foot-tall piece, which shows two embracing lovers, quite hard with her hand and digging her nails into it, and she seemed to be taking a photo or video as she did so, but no one in the booth that houses the work, that of London gallery Sadie Coles HQ, batted an eye.

Their lack of concern was because the work in question is, as you may have guessed, one of the Urs Fischer clay sculptures that all comers are allowed to touch, deface, and generally play around with. About 90 minutes into the fair, the piece, which is modeled on Auguste Rodin’s The Kiss (1882), was showing a little bit of wear, but not much.

Detail of Urs Fischer, The Kiss, 2017.

A director for Coles said that this is the second such piece that Fischer has made, the first being the clay copy of Aristide Maillol’s La Rivière (1938) that he showed at JTT in New York last summer. That piece ended up quite defaced by the end.

The sculpture at Basel has a price tag of $500,000 and is one from an edition of two plus an artist’s proof. The buyer will get a fresh version of the sculpture, and always has the option of asking Fischer’s studio to sculpt a new, immaculate copy around the work’s metal and steel armature.

With more than 100,000 people likely to pass through the halls of Basel while the fair runs, through Sunday, one imagines that the work is going to get pretty disfigured. However, there is always the chance that other impulses will prevail. While admiring the hulking thing, another woman walked up and actually began to smooth out letters that people had carved onto the leg of the woman. She did it very carefully, lovingly, even, restoring the work before my eyes.

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