Urs Fischer Skips Own New Museum Opening; Interactive Sculpture Disappoints

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Last night's opening — sans Fischer, and sans tongue. Photo: Patrick McMullan

Some of the art world’s biggest names turned out last night for the opening of Urs Fischer’s solo show at the New Museum: Chuck Close, Cindy Sherman, Jeffrey Deitch.

Noticeably absent from the Urs Fischer opening? Urs Fischer.

The Swiss artist's show, “Urs Fischer: Marguerite de Ponty,” fills the entire building and includes work of such scale and logistical complexity that its installation required the museum to hire up to 120 outside contractors, ship massive metal sculptures by airplane from China, and lower one of its gallery ceilings by two feet.

The museum’s communications director, Gabriel Einsohn, passed along word from the show’s curator, Gioni Massimiliano, that "in the past, [Fischer] has elected not to attend events." Einsohn also noted that Fischer did attend the opening’s after-party at Civetta. (A representative of Fischer's dealer, Gavin Brown, did not respond to requests for comment regarding the artist's absence from the opening.)

Fischer's fans may have also been disappointed by a malfunctioning sculpture in the show. The work, a motion-activated replica of a human tongue called Noisette, is intended to result in a “mischievous slapstick routine” by popping out of a hole in the wall as visitors pass by. But it refused to emerge for extended stretches of time, resulting in visitors waving their arms or sticking their fingers in the hole to try to coax it out. At one point, a man wielding a large video camera hovered over the hole, hoping to catch the pink protrusion in action. One observer reported seeing Gioni trying to reset the device controlling the sculpture. “The tongue was working all night — however, it requires a short lag time in between [extensions],” Einsohn explained. “And with so many people, sometimes it had trouble resetting so quickly.”