17 A
PETER FISCHLI (B. 1952) & DAVID WEISS (1946-2012)
PETER FISCHLI (B. 1952) & DAVID WEISS (1946-2012)

Untitled (Door with cleaning supplies)

PETER FISCHLI (B. 1952) & DAVID WEISS (1946-2012)
Untitled (Door with cleaning supplies)
fourteen elements—painted polyurethane
door: 80 1/4 x 27 3/4 x 1 5/8 in. (203.8 70.4 x 4.1 cm.)
installation dimensions variable
Executed in 1993-1994.
Sonnabend Gallery, New York
Private collection, United States, acquired from the above, 1994
David Zwirner, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner
New York, Sonnabend Gallery, Peter Fischli/David Weiss, March-April 1994.


Saara Pritchard
Saara Pritchard


"In the case of Duchamp the concept of objets trouvés, or ‘found objects,’ is important, whereas we try to create objects. Duchamp’s objects could revert back to everyday life at any point in time. Our objects can’t do that, they’re only there to be contemplated. They’re all objects from the world of utility and function, but they’ve become utterly useless. You can’t sit on the chairs we carve. They are, to put it simply, freed from the slavery of their utility. Nothing else is left other than to look at this chair. What else can you do with it?" Peter Fischli

Untitled (Door with cleaning supplies) (1993-1994) is part of an important series of polyurethane foam sculptures by collaborative Swiss artistic duo Peter Fischli and David Weiss. Evincing a tableau of life in the artist’s studio, Untitled (Door with cleaning supplies) presents a visual discord of meticulously sculpted and painted everyday objects: a knob-less industrial door, deckled with accretions; a collection of rough, uneven splattered wooden planks; a worn blue bucket; a spray bottle of 409 brand cleaner; a jug of Liquid Plumr; colorful plastic tubing, and a red plate resting underneath a paint-caked spatula. Encountering Untitled (Door with cleaning supplies) in the sanctity of the gallery space lends the startling impression that the area is being cleaned, or under construction—disrupting the pristine white cube and offering a cheeky unique new dimension between illusion and reality. As critic Rainald Schumacher remarked, “(Fischli & Weiss’s polyurethane object) pretends that it is not an artwork” (Sammlung Goetz, 2010, p. 108).

For thirty years, Fischli & Weiss hand-carved depictions of ordinary studio detritus such as pizza boxes, paint rollers, M&M candies, bottles of Murphy’s oil soap, cans of dog food, worn-in chairs and worked lumps of clay from thick, rigid polyurethane foam. Groups of sculptures from this prolific series have been presented as dense site-specific installations at major institutions worldwide, such as the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (Tisch [Table], 1992-93); Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt (Raum unter der Treppe [Room Under the Stairs], 1993); Sonnabend Gallery, New York (Untitled, 1994; of which the present lot was included); Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (Empty Room, 1996); Tate Modern, London (Untitled, 2000); and Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam (Untitled, 2003). Utilizing a fastidious attention to detail, the artists meticulously painted each polyurethane object to present an uncanny resemblance to their real-world counterpart. Their authentically splattered, chipped, bent and filthy surfaces are the antithesis of Andy Warhol’s pristine Pop Brillo Box homage to consumerism. Upon close inspection, the deception of Fischli & Weiss’s foam sculptures is evident—frozen and useless, they are deprived of their raison d’être, only fit for the pleasure of viewing. As Fischli explained, “Part of the appeal of this deception (of the polyurethane objects) lies in the slight deviation, the failure, the incompleteness. A gap appears between reality and reflection. Strangely enough, this space in between can be exactly the point where you’re best able to access the work” (R. Fleck, B. Söntgen and A.C. Danto, Peter Fischli David Weiss, London, 2005, p. 22.).

The polyurethane sculptures are also related to the “pleasure of misuse,” an idea the artists explored in their landmark film Der Lauf der Dinge (The Way Things Go) (1987). The Way Things Go positioned everyday items such as a tires, soap, water and old shoes as part of a destructive chain reaction in an abandoned warehouse. As Peter Fischli stated, “Part of the merriment in (The Way Things Go) rests on this false use. Here, again, objects are freed from their principal, intended purpose. Perhaps this can be beautiful. If you identify with these objects, it has a liberating effect” (R. Fleck, B. Söntgen and A.C. Danto, Peter Fischli David Weiss, London 2005, p. 23).