*1954 in Oldenburg, Germany


1973–1981, Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, Klasse / class of Fritz Schwelger, Gerhard Richter

Awards (selection)

2007, Hotel for the Birds selected for Trafalgar Square’s fourth plinth

2005, 51st International Art Exhibition: La Biennale di Venezia Golden Lion (best artist of the exhibition)

1998, Kurt-Schwitters-Preis der Niedersächsischen Sparkassenstiftung


Since the mid-1970s, Thomas Schütte has created an extensive oeuvre that comprises nearly all classical forms of visual art, such as sculpture, painting, and drawing. He studied in Dusseldorf at the Kunstakademie, where Gerhard Richter was among his instructors. Karl Kneidl taught stage design near Richter’s class, and the influence of regular visits from Kneidl are discernible in Schütte’s works. The artist has designed architectural models since the early 1980s—at times for rather unusual construction projects. And although they were not created for specific places or contexts, many of his designs were realized.

Spartà Hut also began as a model, and now the execution of the design will be shown for the first time in Metzlerpark. Schütte’s work profoundly addresses visions of life in the future, yet with humor. The frame of reference for his architecture is described through its form: it is a wooden hut. The front and rear walls are hexagonal and define the basic contours of the elongated structure. There is no decoration. Features have been reduced to the utmost necessities: a door, four hatch-like windows, and a platform, which can serve as a sleeping or sitting area. The clear, geometrical design is an echo of Aldo Rossi’s formal vocabulary. The creations of the Italian architect strongly influenced Schütte’s artistic approach, since Rossi turned against the basic principle of modern architecture (form follows function) and elevated form once again as the defining concept. In Schütte’s work, contemporary designs for sustainable living have a particular resonance. The wooden hut becomes a symbol of romantic ideas about a simple, “Spartan” life in harmony with nature.

To begin with, the work’s title refers to the gallery owner Pietro Spartà, who coordinated the realization of the model. Spartà Hut allows for other interpretations as well and to some extent breaks with the harmony suggested by its form in that it indicates the roots of the idealized Spartan way of life: The Spartans were an ancient and warlike people for whom the accumulation of private property was forbidden and who brought up their boys as hardened warriors from childhood.

Ultimately, it is not by chance that Spartà Hut seems reminiscent of the Trojan horse’s body and thus of an ancient trap disguised as sculpture: Does the pursuit of this sort of basic life in nature also perhaps lead to a dead end? Modern humans do, in fact, seem hardly able to survive under such humble conditions—in contrast to the highly-trained warriors of Sparta. Furthermore, the urban sprawl into nature, even with sustainable materials, will not solve the problem of space on this planet. Schütte’s design remains the embodiment of a beautiful dream.

Lydia Korndörfer


kindly supported by:

Galerie Pietro Spartà, Hans-Georg Kolloge