Snowman by Fischli/Weiss

Since November 27, 2020

Since November 27, 2020, Snowman, a sculpture by Swiss artists Fischli/Weiss, has taken its place in the park of the Fondation Beyeler. Following its acquisition for the Beyeler Collection it will now remain there permanently – adding another higlight to the well-known sculptures by Alexander Calder (Tree, 1966), Ellsworth Kelly (White Curves, 2001), Jenny Holzer (Sitzbänke Living Series, 1989) and Thomas Schütte (Hase, 2014) in the Berower Park. 

The sculpture shows the friendly and familiar figure of a snowman, consisting of three stacked snowballs, the top and smallest one displaying two holes for eyes and a dash for a mouth. It stands in a refrigerator with a glass door, allowing it to exist throughout the year. 

Snowman illustrates the contradiction between nature and artificiality, displaying the penchant for the absurd typical of the work of Fischli/Weiss. The current context is different from the one the snowman in the fridge was originally conceived in. The image of complete energy dependency, so endearingly embodied by Snowman, acquires a new, poignant and terrifying dimension in view of the climate crisis.



Peter Fischli (*1952) and David Weiss (1946-2012) originally developed the work in 1989/90 for an exhibition in public space in Saarbrücken. In response to the site they had been allocated near a newly commissioned thermal power station, they decided to come up with something dependent on the power plant’s energy. The snowman was thus imagined using the power station’s residual energy, which – in an inversion typical of Fischli/Weiss – was converted to cold. The execution did not fully meet the artists’ expectations, but the wish remained to turn the idea into a work.

A rough design was created at the invitation of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis in the late 1990s, yet it was not executed. Finally, the sculpture Snowman was realised in 2016. It travelled to the Sculpture Garden of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, to the terrace of the Art Institute in Chicago, and further onward. Our Snowman (one of four) is the only one in Europe and in Switzerland, and the first one operated by solar power. Snowman is the most recent work to be acquired for the Fondation Beyeler’s collection.


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The exhibition is generously supported by: