Stand by me
Elmgreen & Dragset
For their first presentation at MASSIMODECARLO Pièce Unique in Paris, artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset subvert the exhibition space by creating a psychologically charged tension between the viewer and the work on display.
Produced specifically for MASSIMODECARLO’s rue de Turenne space, Stand By Me is a life-size marble statue of a young boy leaning his hands against the gallery’s clear street-facing window.
Gazing out towards the busy street, the small boy’s placid, ambiguous presence rouses curiosity. Why is he standing there? What is he watching: could it be the passers-by outside or an event that has just taken place, which we were not privy to? It is not clear if he is content or if we are looking at a young boy longing for something beyond his reach.
Enticed into an ambiguous freeze-frame, viewers are invited to contemplate the boy’s own interior world as well as his situation, caught between public and private spheres, in a place of solitude. Whilst we consider how to identify with this child, his motionless, white Carrara marble figure reminds us of his artificiality. Like a mirage glimpsed from outside the windowpane, Stand By Me has an almost ghost-like quality that seems to both communicate with us and disregard us all at once.
Elmgreen & Dragset’s sculptural practice often pursues questions of masculinity and upbringing, challenging traditional depictions of the male as heroic. Many of their figurative sculptures are made in classical materials such as bronze or marble but are then embedded in contemporary settings or narratives. Developing these thematic investigations, Stand By Me is the latest in a body of work that explores the emotional tribulations of childhood.
The sculpture sits in dialogue with some of the artist duo’s earlier works such as Dilemma (2017), where the figure of a boy is seen standing on the edge of a tall diving board in Ekeberg Sculpture Park, Oslo, or Powerless Structures, Fig. 101, a sculpture of a boy astride his rocking horse, first shown in 2012 on the Fourth Plinth in London’s Trafalgar Square.
To quote the artists’ own words: “we often show the male form – a leitmotif in our sculptural works – during childhood, adolescence, or young adulthood in a moment of contemplation, vulnerability, wonder, fear, excitement or discomfort, or a combination of these. These depictions subvert the conventional representation of masculinity in classical sculpture, which often portrays the male figure in a heroic posture.”
This presentation at MASSIMODECARLO Pièce Unique is organized in the lead-up to Elmgreen & Dragset’s much anticipated exhibition « Useless bodies? » that will open at Fondazione Prada on March 31st in Milan. We acknowledge Perrotin and MASSIMODECARLO Milano for this exhibition.
Michael Elmgreen was born in 1961 in Copenhagen, Denmark; Ingar Dragset was born in 1969 in Trondheim, Norway; they have been working as an artist duo since 1995. They live and work in Berlin. With the intention of revealing and redefining the art world, its cultural institutions and their fruition from the public, Elmgreen & Dragset draw inspiration from the everyday world, criticizing through a strong and unsettling sense of humor the contemporary social and political structure. They are well known for their numerous public architectural and performative installations, including Prada Marfa, a Prada shop located in the middle of the desert of Texas realized in 2005, and Short Cut, where due cars were rising out of Milan’s Galleria Vittorio Emanuele in 2003, produced together with Fondazione Nicola Trussardi. Elmgreen & Dragset constantly challenge their public and its imaginary through the creation of images that are as shocking as spectacular.
Elmgreen & Dragset were appointed curators of the 15th Istanbul Biennial (2017). They were awarded a Special Mention at the 53rd Venice Biennale (2009) for The Collectors at the Danish and Nordic Pavilions and won the prestigious Preis der Nationalgalerie für Junge Kunst at Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin (2002).