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GOMA Will Soon Be Home to a Real Snowman That Can Survive an Entire Summer

The frosty artwork will make its Brisbane debut this summer, as part of the gallery's new 'Water' exhibition.
By Sarah Ward
September 24, 2019
By Sarah Ward
September 24, 2019

The kind of place where 18 degrees is considered freezing, Brisbane is hardly a snowman's natural habitat. But that'll change come summer, when South Bank's Gallery of Modern Art welcomes its own icy figure — and, yes, it'll be made out of real snow.

GOMA's latest high-profile acquisition, Snowman is the work of artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss, and dates back to 1987. First conceived as part of a site-specific work at a German thermic power plant, the fairly typical-looking snowman is made from three balls of snow, with the top one boasting hand-drawn eyes and a mouth.

What's not typical of this well-travelled snowman, however, is its ability to survive full summers. To protect Snowman from Brisbane's subtropical climate, it'll sit encased in a glass and metal industrial freezer — so, while GOMA visitors will be able to see the frosty sculpture, you definitely won't be able to touch it. But, lucky gallery staff members will be given the task of retracing its eyes and smile every few days, with the artwork's enigmatic expression expected to shift subtly over time from happy to quizzical to maybe even diabolical as a result.

When Snowman brings its literal chill to Brissie, it'll mark the piece's first visit to the Southern Hemisphere. Understandably, it's usually exhibited in locations where it's much, much older — including a hit season at New York's Museum of Modern Art.

Peter Fischli and David Weiss, Snowman (1987/2017-19). Copyright: Peter Fischli David Weiss, Zurich 2019. Courtesy Spruth Magers, Matthew Marks New York and Los Angeles, Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich.

The icy work will first go on display on December 7 as part of GOMA's huge summer showcase, which is completely dedicated to the theme of water. As well as marvelling at Snowman — because a snowman in Brisbane is definitely something worth marvelling at — visitors will also be able to walk across a massive indoor riverbed, with Olafur Eliasson's Riverbed installation another of Water's centrepieces. More than 40 works by international and Australian artists will be featured across the entire exhibition.

Geraldine Kirrihi Barlow, Curatorial Manager of International Art at GOMA, hopes the sculpture will help inspire visitors to contemplate topical environmental issues. "In the context of Water, Snowman prompts us to think about issues such as global warming and climate change," Barlow said in a statement.

While Water runs until April 26, 2020, Snowman will become a permanent feature at GOMA. The piece isn't just on loan to the gallery, but has been acquired thanks to philanthropic support — and, according to The Courier-Mail, may even eventually tour the state in its freezer.

Snowman will display at the Gallery of Modern Art, Stanley Place, South Brisbane as part of GOMA's forthcoming Water exhibition, which runs from December 7, 2019 to April 26, 2020.

Top image: Peter Fischli and David Weiss, Snowman (1987/2016). Installation view: SFMOMA. Copyright the artists. Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery. Photograph: Mary Ellen Hawkins.

Published on September 24, 2019 by Sarah Ward
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