Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Day Auction


Thomas Houseago
B. 1972
156 by 166.5 by 65 cm. 61 3/8 by 65 1/2 by 25 5/8 in.
Executed in 1995.
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Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner in 1996


Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum Bureau, Thomas Houseago, 1996
Paris, Grand Palais: Rodin, L'Exposition du Centenaire, March - July 2017
Paris, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Thomas Houseago: Almost Human, March - July 2019, p. 50, illustrated in colour

Catalogue Note

Infused with an urgency and brute physicality, the work of Thomas Houseago captures the decisive moment when man reveals his internal strength which stems from his momentum and energy. Of his creative process, the artist has said “At the studio, I cast from clay to create my plaster works. The wrestling with clay, the manipulation, the fight between me and the clay where I push it and it pushes back, the craziness I can get into with clay, its mad activity is unique to that material” (Thomas Houseago in conversation with Brandon Kennedy in: Brandon Kennedy, ‘Thomas Houseago: A journey through the past to the future of the present form’, NorthPark Magazine, online). During this process, the artist imbues his work with his vigorous energy, sealing the physical traces it leaves behind within a plaster mould.

The importance of plaster to the artist’s practice can be seen in his most recent solo exhibition Almost Human at the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris which featured over fifty sculptures including Walking Man and Spoon. Though at first appearing to be sculpted wholly in the round, upon closer inspection Walking Man is revealed to be a hollow shell, rendering itself both a meditation on the power of our living bodies and a reflection on humankind’s vulnerability. A similar theme is explored in Spoon which, for the artist, recalls the heavy drug culture which surrounded him growing up in Leeds. The artist has also said that “Whenever I made these big spoons, my kids would jump in them and sort of, enjoy being in them” signifying for the artist the frailty and decay of the body while also recalling its youthful exuberance (Thomas Houseago in conversation with Nora Lawrence in: ‘Thomas Houseago: As I Went Out One Morning’, Storm King Art Center, February 2013, online).

Houseago’s multifaceted works draw upon his upbringing for inspiration while freely quoting and subverting art-historical referents. The pure white plaster flesh of Thomas Houseago’s Walking Man recalls the immaculate marble surfaces that pervade the sculpture of antiquity. The figure’s dynamic pose, which rotates the axis of its body, breathes life into the ancient sculptural tradition of contrapposto. The artist looks to Modernist giants like Picasso, Braque, and Giacometti when creating his work. Indeed, Walking Man borrows its title from Giacometti’s work of the same name from 1960 while Spoon is a nod to the artist’s Spoon Woman or Woman with Her Throat Cut. By referencing and challenging both modern and classical sources, the artist creates works that hover between old and new worlds

Contemporary Art Day Auction