Katharina Fritsch

(b. 1956)

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(1956– )

German sculptor, born in Essen. She studied at the Düsseldorf Kunstakademie and during the 1980s rapidly gained a reputation as one of the most original sculptors in Europe. Many of her sculptures are life-size figures in brilliant monochrome presented on the ground without a plinth to engage directly with the spectator. In 1987 she placed a bright yellow Madonna, based on a tourist souvenir from Lourdes, on the streets in Münster, a strongly Catholic city. Although the figure itself was unexceptionable, its placing and its colour aroused strong reactions, presumably because it was impossible for the public to assess whether satire or reverence was the intention. Some laid flowers at its feet, but the piece was also attacked and eventually destroyed. Fritsch was actually taking up the challenge set down by de Chirico, who wanted statues sharing the same space as human beings. Fritsch is a strong feminist. Apart from the Madonna her figures have generally been male. She has commented: ‘Men have women as their models, so obviously I have men as my models. They are my muses.’ The sculptures of ‘three bad men’ are the monk (all black), the doctor (all white, a skeleton under the coat), and the dealer (brilliant puce with one foot cloven like the devil). The last plays on the double meaning of dealer, both a dealer in drugs and in art. They are in her words ‘the physician who doctors his patients to death, the monk who is holier than thou and the dealer who cold-bloodedly rips you off and sells you rubbish’. Fritsch has also drawn on the German tradition of folk tales. Heart with Money and Heart with Wheat (1979) is a heart shape on the floor of the gallery made of glittering silver coins and another made of sheaths of golden wheat. It was inspired by a cautionary tale of a charcoal burner who trades his heart for money.

Further Reading

I. Blazwick, Katharina Fritsch (2002)

Subjects: Art.

Reference entries