Artwork of the month May

Matthias Frick, Sie leben von den Touristen, 1979

Matthias Frick

1964 in Zurich, Switzerland – 2017 in Nendeln, Liechtenstein

Sie leben von den Touristen (They Live from the Tourists), 1979

Coloured pencil on paper
29.3 x 41.5 cm
Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein, Vaduz / Donation from the estate of the artist


This early coloured pencil drawing shows a summery Alpine landscape with a cableway. We are bemused by two giant figures in orange-and-blue-striped clothes. One hangs by all fours from the cable behind two little red cable cars; the other appears to float weightlessly above the field. Is this figure a farmer with a pipe and scythe or is this Death, the grim Reaper? This 'male figure' is adorned with earrings that lend it a female touch and demonstrate the interweaving of the 'male aesthetic' and the 'female aesthetic'. For Frick assigns things to the female and the male, to active and contemplative life. The key aspect is that things do not remain one-sided but rather permeate each other, then life arises.

What is more, the field is dotted ornament-like with numerous rows of little skiers with 'yellow racing suits in a gymnastic pose' (Matthias Frick, March 2012). A flower grows out of each pair of upright skis as if from a calyx. Will the grim Reaper mow down the skier-flowers? Different structures overlap here: a tidy ornamental structure of skiers, seen from afar, with a structure that brings disarray, the Reaper, seen from up close. At the same time, this drawing testifies to the artist's humour – with the title of the piece reading: 'Sie leben von den Touristen' (They Live from the Tourists). It remains unclear who 'They' refers to.

Since the end of the 1970s, Frick developed a complex universe with his drawings and painterly works on paper: a profound personal cosmology that conceals a sensitive humour. Frick himself saw his work in the orbit of 'art brut'. The astonishing thing is that he reversed the self-image of this 'outsider art' by viewing it as a guide to a new understanding of art.

Christiane Meyer-Stoll


"It [art brut] is simply my thing – I keep coming back to it"

Matthias Frick

<b>Matthias Frick, Sie leben von den Touristen, 1979</b>
Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein highlights a work from the permanent collection each month throughout the year. Works from the collection of the Hilti Art Foundation are also included in this series on a regular basis.