The interaction of humans with mundane objects of everyday life inspires Erwin Wurm. Austria's most famous artist spoke with Lisa Zeitz about his constricted childhood and clothing as a sculptural phenomenon.
The interview took place via video conference between the Berlin editorial office and the artist's studio in Limberg, about an hour north of Vienna. Works by the artist have just been on show at the Biblioteca Marciana in Venice, in museums in Belgrade and Korea. For 2023, he is preparing exhibitions at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, among others. The conversation can also be heard as a podcast: "What does art do?" can be found on weltkunst.de and all major streaming platforms.
WELTKUNST How did you get into art, Mr Wurm?
ERWIN WURM My parents' house was not hostile to art, but disinterested. But my father had acquired a painting from some painter painter when he furnished the flat in the fifties. It hung on a bamboo wall and looked like Picasso, but it wasn't Picasso. It's always in my head, abstract, but then not abstract, strangely deformed people. Unfortunately I no longer have it. It was the beginning, it set something in motion for me.
WK How long have you been making art yourself?
EW I started drawing at an early age, everything very small because we didn't have much space. I had a small room that I had to share with my sister, including the desk. I made very small drawings with little figures and sculptures, no bigger than three centimetres. Because I loved to play with nativity figures, my father, who was a detective, was worried that I might I might want to become a priest. But I was simply attracted to the plasticity of these beautifully carved wooden figures. At grammar school we had a great art teacher, so that my interest flared up as if petrol had been poured into it.