In its size and material, Schütte’s United Enemies I formally engages the conventions of commemorative public sculpture while purposely upsetting them. This monumental bronze depicts two pairs of male figures—fiercely grimacing couples that have been bound to one another with rope, seemingly against their will. The work belongs to a long line of United Enemy sculptures, which Schütte first made in the early 1990s, inspired in part by a stay in Rome and the many classical portrait busts he encountered there. He began to think about this genre anew, initially creating small-scale single figures modeled from Fimo clay around an armature of wooden dowels and swathed in fabric. These served as scale models in diminutive architectural settings and environments; they then became stand-alone sculptures, entwined in pairs under glass bell jars.
Two decades later, Schütte returned to the motif and executed it in bronze at more than ten times its original size, a transformation from model to monument that is typical in his practice. United Enemies I encourages meditation on the nature of public space, on its buildings and statuary and on its reflection of the culture that produced it—issues pertinent to Schütte and artists of his generation, who came of age as postwar Europe rebuilt itself. This work is the first of four casts of these particular figures, each with a different patina.
Publication excerpt from MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)