In our series of contemporary exhibitions at the Theseus Temple, this year we are presenting Man in a Boat, a work by the acclaimed Australian sculptor Ron Mueck that was created during a residency at the National Gallery, London, in 2000–2. In the late 1990s, Mueck caused a sensation with his detailed sculpture of a prostrate naked man, a depiction of his own dead father (Dead Dad). The verisimilitude of this work has become something of a trademark of Mueck’s oeuvre and references the artist’s first occupation: before he transitioned to fine art, Mueck made models and special effects for films and advertisements.
Mueck creates his sculptures in a traditional manner. Using photographs, press cuttings or life models, he begins with three-dimensional preparatory studies that eventually lead to a plaster cast. For the actual artwork he uses polyester and acrylic resins as well as fibreglass compounds; with the addition of hair and paint, these materials allow him to create highly veristic surfaces. At the same time Mueck imbues his figures with a powerful psychological expression. But his manipulation of scale turns them into unreal intermediate beings. As though taken from a surreal story, they seem to address the viewer directly, drawing us into their space, and confront us with Mueck’s primary subject: the human body and the subsequent contingency of man’s existence.
This exhibition is Ron Mueck’s first solo exhibition in Austria. It is curated by Jasper Sharp, and generously supported by the Contemporary Patrons of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, the British Council, Anthony d’Offay, and Hauser & Wirth.
BIOGRAPHY OF RON MUECK
Ron Mueck was born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1958, to German parents who both worked as toymakers. He grew up making puppets and various creatures, experimenting with materials and techniques.
With no formal art training beyond high school, he began his career making models for television and film, including Jim Henson’s Labyrinth (1986) before moving on to establish his own production company in London producing objects for the advertising industry. He was catapulted into the art world in 1997 when his sculpture Dead Dad was exhibited at the Royal Academy, London, as part of the exhibition “Sensation” from the collection of Charles Saatchi. He has had solo exhibitions at the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C., Nationalgalerie im Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin, and the Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem, among others, and was invited to participate in the 49th Venice Biennale in 2001. Mueck today lives and works in London.
CONTEMPORARY ART AT THE THESEUS TEMPLE
Beginning in 2012, the museum initiated a new series of exhibitions within the Temple, a neo-classical structure built by court architect Peter von Nobile in 1823 to be the home for a single work of then-contemporary art: Antonio Canova's white marble masterpiece “Theseus Slaying the Centaur”. For almost seventy years this artwork stood alone inside the building, until in 1891 it was moved to the newly-completed Kunsthistorisches Museum where it still stands today. More than a century later, these exhibitions have returned the Temple to its original purpose: to house remarkable artworks by contemporary artists, one at a time.
Artists who have previously exhibited at the Theseus Temple include Ugo Rondinone (2012), Kris Martin (2012), Richard Wright (2013), Edmund de Waal (2014) and Susan Philipsz (2015).