Pace will open its doors to an exhibition of new and recent work by the artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset at its flagship gallery in New York. Marking the Berlin–based artists’ first major show with Pace since they joined the gallery in 2020, this presentation runs from November 9 to December 18. The Nervous System, which comprises a highly narrative domestic scene of 11 works, including eight new pieces, is reminiscent of Elmgreen & Dragset’s acclaimed double exhibition, titled The Collectors, in the Nordic and Danish Pavilions at the 53rd Venice Biennale in 2009.
Elmgreen & Dragset, who have been collaborating since 1995, will take over the first floor of Pace’s New York space for this presentation, creating an almost surreal depiction of a dysfunctional home within the gallery’s walls. Featuring varied sculptural elements that together create a complex set of associations, the exhibition encourages viewers to draw their own interpretations of the scene from the many different cues in the display. For instance, five characters are presented as figurative sculptures, though the relationships between these characters are not explicitly described. In this presentation, Elmgreen & Dragset have inverted the experience of reading a novel, providing images but requiring viewers to construct the story.
Among the recent works in the exhibition is the installation Short Story (2020), which features two figurative bronze sculptures of young boys on a tennis court and speaks to competition in society at large as well as the subjective nature of fairness. New pieces in the show include Boy with Gun, a sculptural installation showing a painted white bronze figure of a young boy holding a gun above his head and staring through a window, and The Painter, Fig. 1, a sculptural rendering of the act of painting that blends the two mediums and playfully intertwines reality and representation. In conjunction with this presentation, Pace will produce a catalogue featuring an essay by the writer Martin Herbert and an interview with the artists by the art historian Richard Shiff.
Elmgreen & Dragset’s extraordinary, large-scale sculptural installations have been presented around the world. Among their permanent public works are Prada Marfa, a reproduction of a Prada store erected in Marfa, Texas in 2005, Bent Pool in Miami, the Memorial to the Homosexuals Persecuted under the National Socialist Regime in Berlin, and their site-specific ceiling installation, The Hive, which was unveiled at the new Moynihan Train Hall in New York in December 2020. Central to the artists’ practice are investigations of the social histories of public spaces, and their works are often imbued with political and emotional resonance.
Much of the artists’ work, like the stainless-steel Han sculpture in the Danish city of Elsinore, incorporates figurative elements. Others, like the large-scale sculpture Van Gogh’s Ear presented in New York, Hong Kong, and Wuhan, utilize recognizable objects from the physical world to conjure unexpected associations.
“What’s important is that art can make us less fearful,” Elmgreen said in a 2019 interview with the critic Linda Yablonsky.
In June 2021, Elmgreen & Dragset inaugurated a permanent outdoor sculpture, Life Rings, at the Royal Djurgården in Stockholm, Sweden. The artists’ solo exhibition at Copenhagen Contemporary, Denmark will be on view until October 24. On October 4, coinciding with a presentation of selected sculptures throughout the Würth Kunstmuseum, Künzelsau, the artists will be awarded the Robert Jacobsen Prize, one of Europe’s biggest prizes for artists. In spring 2022, they will present a multi-venue solo exhibition inside and outside the Fondazione Prada in Milan.
Elmgreen & Dragset: The Nervous System will be on view from November 9 to December 18, 2021 at Pace Gallery, 540 West 25th Street, NYC.
Take a look-back at Elmgreen & Dragset: Can Gogh’s Ear in the Channel Gardens at Rockefeller Center in the summer of 2016 through Public Art Fund.
Follow Elmgreen and Dragset on Instagram.