Elmgreen & Dragset

A boy on a rocking-horse waves a welcome on ARKEN’s forecourt. Elmgreen & Dragset’s equestrian statue pays tribute to play and fantasy rather than victory and power.

Elmgreen & Dragset, Powerless Structures, Fig. 101. ARKEN Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Henrik Jauert

Long live the child!

Elmgreen & Dragset’s sculpture Powerless Structures, Fig. 101 is a modern version of the equestrian statue. Historically, the equestrian statue is a symbol of power that celebrates kings and warlords. The boy on the rocking-horse, on the other hand, reflects our own time. Today we do not pay homage to the powers-that-be, we aspire to self-realization and acclaim the individual. The child is the new ideal in our time, a symbol of the human being capable of self-realization and of connecting with the world through play and creativity.

In Elmgreen & Dragset’s art the critique of the structures of power thus goes hand in hand with an acute, humorous gaze at current society, our human interrelations and the art museum as a setting for this cultural critique.

Michael Elmgreen

Powerful men on horses

We are all familiar with the traditional equestrian statue from prominent squares in the European capitals. In fact we know this type of sculpture so well that as a rule we don’t really look at it when we come across it: a powerful man up in the air boasting about his warlike deeds from horseback.

Elmgreen & Dragset drew inspiration from this tradition of expressing power through art when they designed their sculpture Powerless Structures, Fig. 101 for the prestigious ‘Fourth Plinth’ on Trafalgar Square in London outside the National Gallery in 2012-13. In the nineteenth century the Fourth Plinth was never given the equestrian statue intended for it, and stood empty for the next 150 years. Since 1999, however, it has been the monumental base for some of the world’s most innovative artworks, including Elmgreen & Dragset’s boy on a rocking-horse.

An equestrian statue in the Western Region

Powerless Structures, Fig 101 stood in Trafalgar Square for 18 months before it came to Ishøj. Now ARKEN and the Copenhagen Western Region have their own equestrian statue. The sculpture is a gift from the foundation Annie & Otto Johs. Detlefs’ Fonde OJD.

Elmgreen & Dragset

Elmgreen & Dragset, Powerless Structures, Fig. 101, 2012. The Fourth Plinth, Trafalgar Square, London. Photo: James O Jenkins (II)

Portrait of Elmgreen & Dragset. Photo: Jason Schmidt

About Elmgreen & Dragset

Few international artists are as good as Elmgreen & Dragset at expressing pointed criticism of the power structures of society and the art institution through humorous, pithy installations. Their critical analyses of among other subjects the welfare state, the relationship between the individual and the state, and the internal logic of the art world are elegantly executed, witty and often controversial. Art, architecture and design are the three main ingredients in the works of the artist duo, which range from large installations and sculptures to photography and performance.

Michael Elmgreen, b. 1961 in Copenhagen, and Ingar Dragset, b. 1969 in Trond-heim, Norway, live and work in Berlin.

The two artists have worked together since 1995, when they met in Copenhagen. Until 2005 they were also partners in private life.

They aroused controversy in 2004 when they were to exhibit in Tate Modern’s giant Turbine Hall and chose to show a ‘dying’ artificial sparrow in a glass cage.

Prada Marfa is Elmgreen & Dragset’s famous version of a Prada boutique, which was permanently set up in 2005 on US Highway 90 in Texas. Six days after the open¬ing the installation was vandalized and emptied of designer handbags and shoes. In 2013 it was declare illegal by the Texas authorities, who saw it as an advertising billboard, not a work of art. It has now been declared legal again.

They were awarded the ARKEN Art Prize in 2006.

Elmgreen & Dragset’s monument to homosexuals persecuted by the Nazi regime was inaugurated in 2008. The sculpture has been set up near the Jewish Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. It is a cube in concrete with a small window through which one can see a film of two men kissing.

In 2009 they exhibited in the Danish and Nordic pavilions at the Venice Biennale with the installation The Collectors, which included a drowned art collector in a swimming pool.

The sculpture HAN (‘HE’) was set up in 2013 at the harbour in Elsinore and led to a great deal of debate. It is made of polished steel as a male version of the Little Mermaid.

More works by Elmgreen & Dragset

Elmgreen & Dragset

Elmgreen & Dragset, Social Mobility (Staircase), 2005. ARKEN Museum of Modern Art

Elmgreen & Dragset

Elmgreen & Dragset, Coupled, Fig. 2 (Front to Front), 2002. ARKEN Museum of Modern Art

Elmgreen & Dragset

Elmgreen & Dragset, International News, 2014. 158 x 120 cm. ARKEN Museum of Modern Art

Elmgreen & Dragset

Elmgreen & Dragset, Classifieds, 2014. ARKEN Museum of Modern Art

Watch a short video about Elmgreen & Dragsets Powerless Structures, Fig. 101.