The Richard Saltoun stand at Art Basel is dedicated exclusively to the British artist Helen CHADWICK (1953-1996), one of the most influential figures in British art history of the 1980s. Chadwick was the first woman artist of the period to achieve mainstream commercial and institutional success and in 1987 was also the first woman to be shortlisted for the Turner prize.
Chadwick’s unique, multi-disciplinary practice captured the zeitgeist of Britain in the 80s. She was hugely influential on the YBA generation that followed and is often cited as the 'mother' of these artists.
Iwona Blazwick, Director of London’s prestigious Whitechapel Gallery, in a recent BBC programme devoted to Helen Chadwick said, 'she transformed late 20th Century British art [and] laid the groundwork for figures such as Tracy Emin and Sarah Lucas and subsequent generations of female artists'.
In 1994, Chadwick had a major exhibition at London’s Serpentine Gallery, the most visited in the gallery’s history. This was followed by a solo exhibition at MoMA, NYC in 1995. Tragically, Helen Chadwick literally died for art when her career was cut short by a virus infection, caught in a laboratory whilst researching a new work on genes. She was 42.
In the final decade of her life, Chadwick produced two of her most iconic works: Piss Flowers (1991-92) and Wreaths to Pleasure (1992-93) and it is these two groundbreaking works that will fill our stand.
Piss Flowers consists of twelve bronze white 'flowers' cast from the snow-packed moulds of Chadwick and her partner ‘pissing in the snow’. The sculptures, each approximately 70 cm high, sit as flowers in a field. The surface detail and shape of each, reveals the contrasting imprints created by the male and female urination. In naming this work Piss Flowers, Chadwick invites us to reimagine this most basic and private of human functions as something organic and beautiful.
The Wreaths to Pleasure were originally exhibited at Chadwick’s solo MoMA, NYC exhibition Bad Blooms in 1995. Once again, the motif of flowers and fruits are set against both pleasing and poisonous liquids: tomato juice, melted chocolate, detergents and soaps, antiseptic cream and oils. The 13 circular framed photographs that comprise this work are each 1 metre in diameter and displayed in the artist’s own brightly coloured enamel steel frames. They hang on the wall in clusters, hyper-surreal floral wreaths to pleasure. As in many of her works Chadwick invites us to question our received notions of beauty, pleasure and revulsion.