Towards unknown horizons with artist Sheila Hicks

As told to Ingrid Luquet-Gad

Gallerist Frank Elbaz recounts the genesis of the American sculptor’s project presented on the forecourt of the Institut de France

Read about Sheila Hicks’s project on the forecourt of the Institut de France on Art Basel Stories.

‘The concept of infinity embodies the column erected by Sheila Hicks on the square in front of the Institut de France.

Infinity, as a limit, is as indefinable as it is unattainable: infinity as a way of approaching the sky, infinity as a promise of unexpected discoveries and of exploring the unknown.

Just like Constantin Brancusi’s Endless Column (1938), the verticality of Sheila Hicks’ sculpture imposingly challenges space by seemingly pushing its boundaries, as if to “burst through the ceiling”—as if to directly ascend upward in the hopes of reaching an indefinable beyond.

The fibers, made up of mineral pigments from Turkey combined with acrylic, once twisted, constitute threads that build the ensemble. Through a process of added material (rather than subtracted, as often in the case in sculpture)—which also verges on the idea of advancing towards infinity—the column mixes a variety of colors, conferring on the whole an alternating character, depending on the 360-degree rotation.

In doing so, the work evolves and changes, delivering images and perceptions which also seem to be infinite.’

- Frédéric Bonnet

The project is presented by galerie frank elbaz (Paris), Meyer Riegger (Berlin, Karlsruhe), and Massimo Minini (Brescia).

Sheila Hicks

About the artist

Born in Hastings, USA in 1934-, lives and works in Paris, France.

Since the late 1950s, Sheila Hicks has been producing work exceptionally difficult to categorise. Knotting, wrapping, folding, twisting and stacking wool, linen and cotton: these are only some of the techniques and materials that have seen her undermine conventional artistic categories and their hierarchical relationships. A pupil of Josef Albers at Yale, Sheila Hicks is the heir to both a Modernist spirit that holds the distinctions between fine art, decoration and design to be unimportant and a textile practice that has its roots in pre-Columbian America.

If Sheila Hicks chose textiles, it is because from clothes to furniture, interior decoration and on to the canvas that undergirds the high art of painting, these are materials that life constantly puts in our way, in a vast variety of contexts. It also allows works to remain alive, taking different forms each time they are shown. Ductile and tactile, Hicks’s work occupies a singular place in the art of our time. It combines forms typical of modernism with non-Western traditions, the play of colour, and a concern to maintain the vital openness of the work.

© Cristobal Zanuartu, 2019.