This summer, Snowman, a sculpture composed of an actual snowman encased in a glass-door freezer, by Peter Fischli (Swiss, b. 1952) and his longtime collaborator David Weiss (Swiss, 1946–2012), comes to the Museum’s Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden as part of Fischli’s Artist’s Choice presentation. Here, Fischli borrows a question inscribed on a painting presented outdoors by artist Ben Vautier (French, b. 1935): “If everything is sculpture why make sculpture?” Through a selection of nearly 20 outdoor sculptures, Fischli invites viewers to contemplate this question.
Initiated in 1989, the Artist’s Choice series invites contemporary artists to organize exhibitions drawn from MoMA’s collection. Fischli is the 13th artist to participate in the series, and the first to do so in the Sculpture Garden.
Snowman (2016) is an updated version of a 1987 site-specific work by Fischli and Weiss that was commissioned by a German thermic power plant whose energy—in the form of heat, paradoxically—was used to keep the snowman perpetually frozen. Though a snowman is, as Fischli observes, a “sculpture that almost anyone can make” simply by rolling three spheres of snow and setting them atop one another, Fischli and Weiss’s Snowman is dependent on a technically complex apparatus for its year-round subsistence. Over the course of three decades of collaboration, Fischli and Weiss explored and exploited contradictions such as this one and investigated the extraordinary potential of ordinary objects and situations.
Snowman takes on new associations in the setting of MoMA’s Sculpture Garden and in the company of works that span the last century, by artists from Henri Matisse and Aristide Maillol to Tony Smith and Katharina Fritsch. Together, Snowman and its companions testify to the expansive possibilities for sculpture today, and to the role of museums in nurturing and preserving their collections.