Born in Zurich, the New York/L.A.-based, Urs Fischer, who mines the potential of materials from clay, steel, and paint, to bread, dirt, and produce in order to create works that disorient and bewilder – and whose collections are included in, among others, New York’s Museum of Modern Art, Venice’s Palazzo Grassi and Tel Aviv Museum of Art – plumbs his own psychological depths only to discover what makes him love work and life.
What historical art figure would you like to have lunch with and why? The person who painted all the divine animals in the Chauvet caves during the Aurignacian. How the need for images came about is a question that I keep asking myself. There once was a first image.
What did you purchase with the proceeds from your first sale? Fewer worries about being broke. Paying outstanding rent and some fun late nights.
What words or phrases do you overuse? “I don’t know” comes to mind.
How do you know when a work is finished? When there’s nothing obvious to add, when I lose interest and, ideally, when it feels like it takes on a life of its own.
When and where were you happiest? Probably as a kid playing.
What is your most treasured possession? My mind, and in the material world, my garden.
Where is your ideal escape destination? The blue hour, near the water, somewhere warm.
What’s the worst survival job you’ve ever had? A 30-hour shift installing booths for a Christmas market.
What TV series from your youth best describes your approach to life? My favorite shows as a kid included the A-Team and early 80’s WWF. Hope they don’t describe my current approach to life…
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? To not feel restless.
What is your most treasured memory? No singular memory springs out. Easier to relate to this question in an abstract format: making love, dancing or swimming in the ocean.
What makes you smile? Curious animals, young and old people.
What makes you cry? Family and rom-coms.
Installation view, Denominator, 2020–22 © Urs Fischer Photo: Jeff McLane Courtesy Gagosian
What is your go-to drink when you toast to a sale? A Paloma.
After an all-nighter, what’s your breakfast of champions? I don’t work late anymore.
Foul Play, 2022; © Urs Fischer, courtesy the artist.
Who inspires you? People being real and those with a vision. Inspiration happens when I’m open to it. There are so many extraordinary lives and stories.
What’s your best quality? Good question. I wouldn’t know.
The Last JC Penney on Earth, 2023;© Urs Fischer, courtesy the artist
What’s your biggest flaw? To hardly ever feel satisfaction.
Varnish Tarnish, 2022; © Urs Fischer, courtesy the artist
What is your current state of mind? Decent.
What do you consider your greatest achievement? Okay, parenting. It’s the biggest challenge I have ever faced.
If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what would it be? As an animal, ideally before homo sapiens inhabited this world. Orca?
Cover image: the artist in his studio, photograph by Robert Banat; courtesy of the artist.