The Narrowest House in the World Sits in a Public Park in Normandy

Ironic and irreverent, Erwin Wurm’s art is in a continuous conversation with the objects and environments that surround us. The result is a journey that calls us to reflect on what we view as essential and re-examine the ways in which political differences extend beyond the world of partisan politics. His free spirit first became known widely in the art world at the end of the 1980s, in 1988 to be precise, with the first of his now legendary One Minute Sculptures in which he or his models would pose, briefly, as sculptures.

After that remarkable series, in which the lines between individuals and objects and life and art were blurred, Wurm, who is considered by many to be the greatest contemporary artist in Austria, created other memorable series including Fat Car (2001), in which enormous cars were made of Styrofoam and polyurethane foam, and then painted in lacquer; the alienating metaphor of Misconceivable (2007), in which a limp boat was built and then hung on the bank of a canal; and the menacing anthropomorphic intrusiveness of Fat House (2017). There was also the disturbing take on carnal knowledge in Big Kiss (2015), a work in which two sausages embrace each other gripped by an irrepressible passion.

Wurm approaches everyday objects with the sensitivity of an essayist, using sarcastic hyperbole and insidious paradoxes to invite reflection.

Narrow House, photo courtesy Studio Erwin Wurm.

Wurm approaches everyday objects with the sensitivity of an essayist, using sarcastic hyperbole and insidious paradoxes to invite reflection, neutralizing the anthropological and political undertones of his works with a wry smile. “In my opinion, play has a great strength, a real subversive power,” Wurm said. “Humor and play make it possible to raise many questions, to convey many different contents without being either offensive or doctrinal.” And humor and playfulness are also key ingredients in another work by the artist—Narrow House, the narrowest house in the world (it is roughly 23 feet tall, 52 feet long, but just 4.5 feet wide). Other models exist of this 1960s-style suburban house, but the only one permanently exhibited outdoors is in Le Havre, Normandy, France.