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Art Basel 2014
Santiago Sierra
Drawing, Photography, Sculpture 1989–1993
Jun 19–22, 2014


At Art Basel Feature we will present a unique ensemble of Santiago Sierra’s earliest works. It offers insight into the basic principles of his practice and highlights the origins of his critical appropriation of minimalism.

Many of these works have never been shown. Protocols of essential sculptural projects from the early Nineties are put in context with drawings, prints and photographies that illuminate Sierra’s path from special investigations to the inspection of casual labor structures, culminating in the performative sculptural interventions that brought to renown as one of the most rigorous analysts of economic formalism.

Since the early Nineties, Sierra has used the tools of rational abstraction to reveal how they serve in the creation of social inequality and help to lay powerful foundations for exploitation and humiliation.


Sierra’s sculptural practice is based on protocols in the spirit of conceptual art of the seventies. His sculptural projects are generally executed according to his formal instructions. As a protocol they are unique works, that can be produced, destroyed, and produced again. The first work listed in Sierras catalogue raisonné is the “Cubic Container” (1990), a cube measuring one by one by one meter. A sculpture in the style of Minimal Art, but without its clean aesthetic. On the outside, the “Cubic Container” is made of used truck tarp; worn, patched, weather-beaten and rutted from its travels and the operations of the shipping business from which Sierra sources the material. Here, for the first time Sierra brings together the rational, minimalist vocabulary and the reality of labour and goods traffic, the forms and topics his oeuvre keeps developing until today. “Cubic Container” was followed by “Prism”. Larger in size and coceived in the same vein, it can be presented in a lying or standing position.


Two photographic projects stand at the beginning of Sierras practice of camera documentation: “Walks” and “Mountains”, both made in Hamburg in 1990. “Mountains” represents a series of bankings of rubble and grit. The abstraction and “naturalization” of industiralised labour is highlighted here for the first time, formally also taking a significant distance from the objectivity that the Becher’s were proclaiming with their documentarism. The second series, “Walks”, captures different views on construction sites near the Hamburg harbour, focusing on the prefabricated forms and logics that would determine specific norms of labour in the construction business.