Ten iconic 20th century sculptures
KAZoART introduces you to ten iconic sculptures that left a lasting impression on their era and went down in history. Revolutionary, controversial or especially aesthetic, these ten sculptures have become a lasting part of art history, leading their creators to join the ranks of posterity. From the oldest to the most recent, follow the timeline of a very sculptural history…
#1 Guitar • Pablo Picasso, 1912
In 1912, a few years before inventing Cubism with Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso moved his cubist theories from the canvas to the 3D world. He adapted his cubist rules for sculpture and produced a cardboard guitar, one of his recurring themes at the time. It was a striking creation at the start of a century full of artistic discoveries.
#2 Unique Forms of Continuity in Space • Umberto Boccioni, 1913
This sculpture by Italian artist Umberto Boccioni—a member of the avant-garde Futurist movement—depicts a man walking and is designed to illustrate movement and speed in three dimensions. The human form merges with the shapes of a machine, another characteristic of futurist objectives. Although this sculpture is slightly less well-known, it was a very original piece for the time, which shows how art throughout Europe was changing at the start of the century.
#3 The Little Mermaid • Edvard Eriksen, 1913
This sculpture from Edvard Eriksen was created in tribute to the eponymous story by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen. The artwork sits upon a rock in the port of Denmark’s capital Copenhagen and is one of the city’s star attractions. As it is exhibited outdoors, it has been vandalized and distorted on a number of occasions, and in 1964 its head was even stolen. The head was never recovered and a new face had to be sculpted for the little mermaid… Luck was not on her side it seems, as the head was stolen again in 1998, although this time, luckily, it was returned.
#4 White Bear • François Pompon, 1923 – 1933
In response to the very expressionist artworks of his contemporary Rodin, sculptor François Pompon abandoned the human form and concentrated instead on the animal world. In 1922, he unveiled his White Bear at the Autumn Fair, attracting the attention of his peers and the general public. His stripped-back, no-frills artworks and their soft shapes are nonetheless very realistic.
#5 Walking Man • Alberto Giacometti, 1960
Giacometti soon began working on human forms, and his research resulted in Walking Man in 1960. The stretched-out, skeleton-like shape of the figure are typical of Giacometti’s sculptures. In 2010, one of ten copies of this artwork sold for €126.83 million, making it the most expensive sculpture ever sold at auction… A true icon!
#6 Mobiles • Alexander Calder, 1962
American artist Alexander Calder – who was also known for creating monumental sculptures exhibited in public spaces – rose to fame for his suspended mobiles. Standing out for their lightweight appearance, primary colours and complete abstraction, these fun artworks are seen as symbols of modernity in the face of classic sculpture.
#7 Compressions • César, 1962
In 1960, César – real name César Baldaccini – discovered the technique of “directed compression”, using a hydraulic press to compress a range of objects, from the body of a car to jewellery… Seeming to challenge the consumerist society of his era, he compressed a huge number of (brand-new) vehicles! In 1975, César designed the famous compressed trophy awarded to actors at the Césars cinema ceremony.
#8 Nanas • Niki de Saint-Phalle, from 1960
Artist Niki de Saint-Phalle began her Nanas series in the late 1960s. The voluptuous forms of these joyous women were inspired by a pregnant friend. She created many Nanas, in all shapes and sizes. The emphasis was always on their feminine attributes and very bright colours. The sculptures embody confident femininity and are rooted in the Feminist movement of the time.
#9 Maman • Louise Bourgeois, 1999
This 10-metre-high monumental sculpture depicting an immense spider is simply titled ‘Maman’.It was designed by Louise Bourgeois as the name implies in tribute to her mother. The artwork has travelled and been exhibited throughout the world, from Washington to Paris and China. The spider’s troubling appearance is simply a façade, as Louise Bourgeois is in fact referring to her mother, a seamstress, who wove thread like a spider weaves silk… A strong work that leaves a lasting impression!
#10 Balloon Dog • Jeff Koons, 1994 – 2000
Artist Jeff Koons never fails to cause a stir. In 2008, for example, his Balloon Dog (magenta) gained huge renown while on exhibition at the Hercules Salon in the Château de Versailles. It was the ideal occasion to impress the public! The artwork depicts a simple latex balloon, inflated and modelled into the shape of a dog, and is reminiscent of fairs and other childhood events, and potentially also a direct reference to his son. By creating the work, Koons had turned a fragile and ephemeral object into a long-lasting monumental sculpture in chrome steel. A great example of the current artistic landscape!
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