Two larger-than-life bronze and three white patinated aluminum figures are grouped around a basin in an exciting yet casual ensemble
The figures are neither clearly man nor woman, they are genderless and naked. A figure confidently displaying her nakedness stretches out towards the sky in the midst of the water; at her feet we find small-scale modeled mushroom growth and an old, rotting beverage can. On her shoulder a snail sprays fine water vapor. The remaining figures are shown in relaxed poses, lying down with a beer can in their hands, or crouching with their gaze directed towards the fountain. The standing and the lying bronze figure, as well as the squatting aluminum figure are designed as fountain figures, water flows from their lower legs and from the beverage can. Mossy stones (on permanent loan from the city of Marl) complete the scenery. A stone serves as a headrest for the lying bronze figure.
With the fountain design, the artist reinterprets one of the oldest themes of art in public space.
With the fountain design, the artist reinterprets one of the oldest themes of art in public space. Since antiquity, fountains have been designed by artists and developed into meeting places for citizens or took on important significance in the cityscape and urban society. Nicole Eisenman deals with this art-historical tradition and plays with it: She does not let the water flow out of the classical „openings“ of the figures, for example the mouths, but chooses lower leg, can and snail.
The surface of the fountain is gently agitated by the sprinkling of water, adding to the tranquil effect of the group of figures. Reduced activity, splashing and the ground-level placement invite the visitor to do the same as the figures and become part of the scenery.
An idyllic, peaceful coexistence of queer characters.
The snail on the left shoulder of the standing bronze figure is a sign of the homosexual movement. If sunlight hits the water vapor of the snail results in a rainbow.
The figures appear ponderous, coarse and inert and are reminiscent of comics. In their supposed genderlessness and nakedness, they turn the viewer into an observer and place themes such as the body, sexuality and role clichés in the room. When sunlight hits the water vapor of the snail, a rainbow results - at the same time a sign for the homosexual movement. Traditionally, the snail is a symbol of fertility. Here, however, the artist refers to the snail as a hermaphrodite and once again underscores her statement on the question of gender or sexuality.
The five figures refer to the artist's Jewish relatives who fled in 1937. Eisenman creates a peaceful place of reunion.
Nicole Eisenman deliberately turns away from the historical and heroic fountain concepts of the previous era. The individual figures as well as their overall effect suggest to the viewer a casual gathering, a „hanging out“ of people, friends and acquaintances, as it happens in public places today. The beverage cans thereby establish a connection to our time. At the same time, the relaxed effect of the ensemble is undermined by the theme of transience. Not only do the mushrooms, the rotting can and the snail on the shoulder remind us of vanitas, but the choice of materials also holds this theme. In addition to the classic bronze sculptures that can be typical of a fountain installation, the artist chooses three figures made of white patinated aluminum (in the context of the Skulptur Projekte 2017 they were made of plaster). The change of their surface and the emerging patina are planned and the visitor becomes part of this process.
Nicole Eisenman deliberately turns her back on the historical and heroic fountain concepts of the previous era.
Deliberately, Nicole Eisenman develops a fountain for our time. She creates an idyllic, peaceful coexistence of queer figures that seem to deviate from our aesthetic or social norm. She plays with the openings for the water and questions our ideas of what a fountain should be.
At the same time, Nicole Eisenman's five characters refer to the past of her own Jewish family. This family had to flee from Berlin and Vienna in 1937. The flight and expulsion of the individual family members was a motivation for the artist to create the sculpture. As was her idea that the five people would meet again in a peaceful place.
The characters seem ponderous, crude and inert, reminiscent of comic books.
In addition to the classic bronze figures, the artist chooses three figures made of white patinated aluminum (during the Skulptur Projekte 2017) they were made of plaster.
The ensemble of figures „Sketch for a Fountain“ is located in Münster, on the promenade, in the area of the Kreuzschanze. In this place there is a slight depression in the ground. The standing bronze figure directs its gaze upwards, towards the horizon, towards the only natural clearing in this area of the promenade.
The fountain stands in front of the so-called „Liebeshügel“. This elevation in the promenade area is covered with trees and served especially during the 1960s and 1970s as a secret meeting place for the homosexuals of Münster. At the foot of the hill is the bust of the poet Annette von Droste-Hülshoff. A little further away, the bust of the composer Julius Otto Grimm can still be found. An eagle owl on a pedestal commemorates the bust of zoologist Bernhard Altum, which was destroyed during World War II. In addition, „METRO-Net (Transportabler Lüftungsschacht)“ by Martin Kippenberger was exhibited here during the 1997 Sculpture Projects. All these references were known to Nicole Eisenman and they were decisive for the selection of this location.
An eagle owl on a pedestal commemorates the bust of zoologist Bernhard Altum, destroyed in World War 2.
Bust of Annette von Droste-Hülshoff
Bust of the composer Julius Otto Grimm
„Sketch for a Fountain“ within the framework of Skulptur Projekte 2017
The Skulptur Projekte 2017 in Münster were a great success with the public, but also in the international perception. The work „Sketch for a Fountain“ by artist Nicole Eisenman received special attention and popularity. Here people of all generations gathered to linger, to discover, to exchange, but also to discuss controversially.
The fountain stands in front of the so-called „Love Hill“ on the promenade, which served as a clandestine meeting place for homosexuals in the 1960s and 1970s.
„I think of all the shows this was probably the most gratifying experience in doing anything in the art world. (…) I designed it for the neighbours in Münster. Ten kids in the fountain, that felt like the perfect day. It was so joyful.”
Nevertheless, „Sketch for a Fountain“ was the only work in this exhibition that was attacked several times and partially destroyed. On the night of July 19-20, unknown persons rioted at the sculpture, pushing in some of the plaster works and „decapitating“ the seated plaster figure. Together with the curator:s of the Sculpture Projects, Nicole Eisenman decided to leave the figures as they were and to include the attack as part of the work. On the night of September 23, on the eve of the federal election in Germany, another attack on the work took place. This time the figures were smeared with blue paint, swastikas sprayed on and homophobic signs painted.
This destruction triggered reactions in the international media. Nicole Eisenman made the following comments: “Last night my piece in Skulptur Projekte Münster was spray painted with a swastika and further vandalized, they broke the fountain pumps. This, on the eve of the election in Germany where its predicted that the AfD will enter the German Parliament for the first time … real Nazis in the German Reichstag for the first time since the end of World War Two.” The organizers of the sculpture projects were also horrified. At the same time a discussion took place in the city society because of the attacks on the work of art and about the possible political backgrounds. The artist was also aware of this discussion and was in active contact with the curators.
„… the AfD will enter the German Parliament (…) real Nazis in the German Reichstag for the first time since the end of World War Two.”
Immediately after these attacks on the work of art, the initiators of „Dein Brunnen für Münster e.V.” came together. The idea developed spontaneously to acquire this important work of art from the middle of the population with the help of all Münster citizens and to preserve it permanently for Münster, especially as a sign for a peaceful, open and tolerant society
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German President Steinmeier visits the fountain with his wife during the Skulptur Projekte 2017