The early twenty-first century saw Denis Savary develop a body of work hybridising references gleaned from his immediate surroundings, art history, and pop culture. The form and materiality of his sculptures gesture to fragmentary narratives that can never be completed, ‘as if it were in their nature to elude definitions’, as he explained in a 2013 interview.
Savary’s Franz offers a fresh take on fairy tales. The huge, milky white resin sculpture depicts a frog lying on its back, seemingly dead, its hind legs sprawled open, fore legs folded over its belly, in an anthropomorphic pose that owes much to cartoon imagery. On its belly lies a scattering of golden petals, as if the creature had died from a surfeit of treasure, luxury and abundance. The sculpture can also be read in reference to the brothers Grimm and their 1812 tale The Frog Prince. The repentant frog, waiting for a princess’s kiss to turn back into Prince Charming, has become a lascivious, avaricious creature beyond redemption. Savary draws on the same procedure of narrative inversion by applying the golf leaf to the inside of the resin shell as well as the outside. In 2021, he used the same mould and technique to produce Franz II, a midnight blue version with copper petals, the first in a new series.
The title pays homage to all the men of that name who influenced Savary’s career – the writer Franz Kafka, the symbolist Franz von Stuck, and the artists Franz Mark and Franz West. Another reference is Martin Kippenberger’s controversial series of sculptures of the early 1990s depicting self-portraits of the artist as a crucified frog. From biotopes and fairy tales to contemporary sculpture and dystopian fables, in this sculpture, frogs take another hop in the vast imaginary realm of narrative.
Jean-Paul Felley and Olivier Kaeser (eds.), Denis Savary, exh. cat. Paris, Centre culturel suisse, 2016.
Clément Dirié (ed.), Denis Savary, exh. cat. Marne-la-Vallée, Centre d’art contemporain de la Ferme du Buisson, Zurich, JRP Ringier, 2013.