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Real sculpture

Maria Fusco is wrong to dismiss Thomas Schütte’s Model for a Hotel 2007

Maria Fusco is wrong to dismiss Thomas Schütte’s Model for a Hotel 2007 (pictured) as a ‘glassy disappointment’ that refers only to ‘something that is outside of itself (in that it is referred to as a “model”)’ (AJ 15.11.07).

It is unfortunate indeed that we Brits are so bird-brained as to necessitate the changing of the title of the sculpture on the Fourth Plinth from its original name Hotel for the Birds, because too many critics understood it to be a respite for Trafalgar Square’s long-suffering pigeons! The original title actually referred to the German phrase ‘for the birds’, meaning ‘for the daft’. It is in actuality a daft architectural structure, raising questions about the nature of monumentality and architectural identity in response to a prevailing style today of arbitrary iconicity.

Thomas Schütte has the courage to make us doubt the sort of architectural sculpture created for us by Hadid, Gehry, Libeskind et al by a work of real sculpture that, rather than ‘distancing its audience from a contemporary experience of history’, instead brings its more astute audience closer to an understanding of contemporary society through a subtle subversion.

Whether the coloured glass is activating or snuffing out the light that shines upon it is a sideline to the real story of what the sculpture has to say about the cultural situation it is trying to reflect; and in comparison to Marc Quinn’s rather blatant Alison Lapper Pregnant, it is perhaps a work of meaning many in the artistic and architectural mainstream in Britain today could learn from.

Ranald Lawrence, Cambridge

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