Nicole Eisenman’s contribution to Skulptur Projekt Münster 2017 was a collection of five figurative sculptures congregated around a pool in a public park in Münster in north west Germany. Conceived of as a response to the history of public fountain statuary, the characters were genderless, slightly out-sized, and a bit goofy.
Two of the figures were bronze; the other three were made from roughly hewn plaster. Eisenman planned for the plaster works to slowly deteriorate under the fountain’s spray throughout their five month life-span.
One month after installation, in July 2017, the head of the reclining plaster figure was violently removed and went missing. It has never been recovered. Eisenman and the curatorial team took the decision to leave the destroyed sculpture in place, only repairing damage to the surrounding landscape.
On the night of 22 September 2017, the work was attacked for a second time. Swastikas were sprayed onto the works and a nearby statue of 18th century feminist poet Annette von Droste-Hülshoff was also damaged. The curators viewed this latest crime
as an attack against the values of the work, which shows a concept of ambiguity and non-normative body politics. Both artworks were exposed to a fascist form of violence. We express our solidarity with people of any colour or sexual identity and strongly condemn the murderous propaganda of all right-wing parties.
The swastika attack came hours before Germany elected a far-right populist party to parliament for the first time since World War II. In the 24 September election, the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany won 12.6% of the vote, becoming the third-largest party in the Bundestag – the lower house of parliament.
On her Facebook page Eisenman wrote:
Last night my piece in Skulptur Projekte Münster was spray painted with a swastika and further vandalized, they broke the fountain pumps. This, on the eve of the election in Germany where its predicted that the AfD will enter the German Parliament for the first time… real Nazis in the German Reichstag for the first time since the end of World War Two.
Many local people were outraged at the treatment of the sculpture, and led a successful campaign to acquire an edition of the work for the sum of €800,000. It is due to be installed in Münster in 2021. In a statement, campaigners stressed that they felt that the work stood for ‘a peaceful, open society, for equality and tolerance’.1 The desire to re-instate Sketch for a Fountain could legitimately be directly connected to the abuse it suffered.