Sophie Taeuber-Arp

Dada Head

1920

Medium
Painted wood with glass beads on wire
Dimensions
9 1/4" high (23.5 cm)
Credit
Mrs. John Hay Whitney Bequest (by exchange) and Committee on Painting and Sculpture Funds
Object number
253.2003
Copyright
© 2017 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Department
Painting and Sculpture
This work is on view on Floor 5, in a Collection Gallery, with 14 other works online.
Sophie Taeuber-Arp has 10 works online.
There are 1,560 sculptures online.

The artist referred to this turned-wood sculpture as a portrait, although it betrays no interest in naturalistic, physical resemblance. Instead, the design creates a masklike face that is reminiscent of Oceanic and Northwest Coast Indian artifacts.

Gallery label from Dada, June 18–September 11, 2006

Sophie Taeuber-Arp was born in Davos, Switzerland, in 1889.... Her first significant works were realized within the heady milieu of Zurich Dada. She was a key participant in the Dadaists activities with her companion Hans Arp....

It was during Taeuber-Arp's Zurich periods that she created her famous Dada Heads, forms of turned wood resembling the dummies of haberdashers and hairdressers, which she painted with highly stylized angular and curvilinear patterns. Taeuber-Arp called these works "portraits," though they show none of the interest in naturalistic, physical resemblance usually associated with the genre. Instead, their simple, elegantly severe shapes and colorful geometric designs combine to create mask-like faces, which evoke the ornamentation on Oceanic and Northwest Coast Indian artifacts. Incisively witty, Taeuber-Arp's Dada Heads are quintessential Dada objects, polychromed sculptures that might double as hat stands, described by Hugo Weber as a "feminine nuance of the Dada game: nonsense with a utilitarian purpose."(1)

1. Hugo Weber, in Georg Schmidt, ed., Sophie Taeuber-Arp (Basel: Holbein Verlag, 1948), p. 125.

Publication excerpt from Anne Umland, Report on purchase, Department of Painting and Sculpture, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2003

This work is included in the Provenance Research Project, which investigates the ownership history of works in MoMA's collection.
The artist
Hans Arp (the artist's husband). Inherited upon his wife’s death, 1943
François Arp
Ruth Tillard Arp
[Claude Guber ?]
Sold at Calmels Cohen auction house, Paris, June 12, 2003, no. 34
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchased at auction, June 2003

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