Artwork of the month May

André Thomkins, Knopfei (Button-egg), 1958/1977

André Thomkins

*1930 in Lucerne, †1985 in West Berlin

Knopfei (Button-egg), 1958/1977

Egg with sewn-on button and thread spool

With his Button-egg, first made in 1958 and later recreated several times, André Thomkins has achieved the supposedly impossible, sewing an ordinary fabric button "with needle, thread and needle threader" onto a blown-out hen's egg. Resting on the spool wound around with thread, as if mounted upon a high pedestal, the egg not only demonstrates a particular craftsmanship, but also its own oddness.

"On 18 September 1958, there was a probability that a meeting of button and egg had never before occurred. The degree of this probability inspired me to create this piece of tailoring artistry, and although sewing is the most threadbare form of bringing the two elements together, it seems no less obvious", Thomkins observed with characteristic eloquence in 1966. The Button-egg is an absurd combination of unrelated elements styled on the metaphorical "chance meeting on a dissecting-table of a sewing-machine and an umbrella" – a phrase coined by the poet Lautréamont and reprised by the surrealists to describe their practice of bringing together disparate objects to create absolutely new (visual) works.

For the Button-egg, Thomkins borrowed surrealist design principles, while at the same time the work itself activated a creative process of continual transformation. He began to create his shadowbuttoneggs, a series of pictures based on the shadows cast by the Button-egg, in the mid-1960s. Thomkins cut out the first-order shadows cast by the object on paper in different incident lighting, using the sheet with the hole to create a second shadow, and then a third, and so forth. In the draft for a Moto-Button-Egg (1976), featuring a small motor, in the drawing entitled oTTo (1968) which turned the Button-egg into an egg-head, and other manifestations, the Button-egg proves to be a leitmotif in Thomkins' extremely diverse oeuvre.

<b>André Thomkins, Knopfei (Button-egg), 1958/1977</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.