London – Urs Fischer: “Dasha” at Gagosian Gallery Through November 3rd, 2018

September 27th, 2018

Installation view. All images via Gagosian Gallery.

In Urs Fischer’s latest exhibition at Gagosian’s Davies street gallery in London, the artist has created a life-sized wax model of Russian collector Dasha Zhukova. This is the next installment in a series made by the artist in which art-world figures are converted into giant candles and then burned slowly, until they are reduced to wax drippings. Previously making works of artists Julian Schnabel and Rudolf Stingel, and dealer Bruno Bischofsberger. Though Zhukova requested she be the next art figure turned wax candle, Fischer hesitated because, up until this point, he has only portrayed men. Ultimately, however, on Monday, September 10th, the wick at the top of the wax figure of Dasha Zhukova’s head was lit, and will continue to burn until the sculpture is reduced to a puddle of melted wax, coinciding with the show’s closing on November 3rd.


Fischer’s work has long been fascinated in the manner of how sculpture may ultimately unfold as spectacle, changing and shifting in time. Since the early 2000’s, the artist has been constructing wax forms that burn in a particular way and over a long period of time. Through sophisticated molding and cast-making techniques, as well as strategically placed wicks distributed across and within this forms, the artist designs and directs the transformation of this object through fire over time. In this piece, Dasha, the subject wears a pink dress and orange heels, and reclines in an orange office chair. Her expression is defiant and relaxed.

This construction of wax effigies of art world idols to be burnt holds both materialistic and spiritual implications. This work echoes the worship and destruction of idols and saints with fire, as well as the highly symbolic presence of candles and flames in places of worship, especially as they are closely related to the carnal or embodied presence of holiness in the material world. The sculpture’s location in the window of Gagosian, as well as the spectacle of its slow melting, presents a refracted view of destruction, death, gravity and the symbolic weight of fire. However, the artist has stated that for him the work is not about the concept, but about the transformative process that takes place.


Meanwhile, at the Gagosian gallery’s Chelsea location in New York, the artist presents a show that also features the colorful office chair. This installation features nine chairs that are controlled by artificial intelligence, and seemingly roll around the space according to their own logic. Both these works are examples of active sculpture, in which a process of transformation is prioritized above any static spectacle or concept. In Dasha, however, the organic transformative power of fire replaces the automated reactivity of artificial intelligence.

— A. Corrigan

Related Links:
Exhibition Page [Gagosian Gallery]