Erwin Wurm

1954 (Bruck an der Mur/Styria), lives and works in Vienna and Limburg

From 1974 until 1977 Erwin Wurm studied Art History and German at the University of Graz. Between 1977 and 1979 he studied Art and Craft Education at Mozarteum University in Salzburg. From 1979 until 1982 he completed his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts, as well as at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, where he taught sculpture and multimedia from 2002 to 2010.

The artist works in the fields of sculpting, video art, and photography. Erwin Wurm has evolved on a conceptual level by consistently reducing his use of materials. He began with works of plaster, wooden sculptures, and sculptures made of sheet-metal, most of which were made from everyday objects. He separated these objects from their original contexts, treated them with colours, and arranged them as object-oriented constructions. He then moved on to wearable sculptures with a ready-made character, before finally working with “empty showcases”, which he used to examine the characteristics of malleable materials through videotaping. A few years later, Wurm turned his back on his voluminous, wildly painted sculptures made of sheet-metal, and turned his ideas about sculpting radically upside down.

In 1846, Baudelaire wrote a polemic text about “boredom in sculpting”. Wurm is without a doubt an innovator in the world of sculpture, which he has proven with the creation of his “One Minute Sculptures”. With the use of these sculptures, he attempts to trick boredom as it was described by Baudelaire. The underlying concept of the “One Minute Sculptures” is humorous instructions of behaviour, which encourage psychological thoughtfulness and have a clearly defined time limit. Wurm’s most recent sculptures include wearable sculptures, indoor and outdoor sculptures, Fat works, and “One Minute Sculptures”. His “One Minute Sculptures” can “only” be captured through photography because they show people in surrealist postures. They help to explain how a sculpture can be defined through its temporal dimension, as well as its spatial dimension.

What began with instructions about how to become fat, and about the fatty degeneration of human beings through the addition of ever more layers of clothes, finally culminated in the “fat car” sculpture: an obese and bulging Alfa. For many people the car symbolises a “third layer of skin”, and by becoming fat it adopts human qualities.

“Loosing and gaining weight means working with volumes. This is why the idea of gaining and loosing weight is also present in sculpting.” Volume, space and weight, as well as concepts such as stretching and expansion define Wurn’s sculptures. As early as the 1980s, Erwin Wurm distinguished himself through a consistently ironic form of expression in sculpting. In those days he was still creating painted sculptures made of wood and single pieces of metal, i.e. painted sheet-metal collages. Our environment’s malleable qualities become visible in all of his works through the use of crazy interventions. 

The works of this internationally renowned artist have also been shown at the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Drawing Center in New York, as well as at the São Paulo Biennial. In 1984 Wurm was awarded the Monsignore Otto Mauer Prize. In 2002 he received the Art Prize of the Galerie CC, and in 2004 he won the Art Prize of the city of Graz. In 2006 a comprehensive exhibition dedicated to the artist’s oeuvre was held at MUMOK in Vienna. As part of this exhibition, Wurm built a life-size single-family house upside down on the roof of the museum.