150 Artists

41/150: David Altmejd – Incongruous Elements

David Altmejd (B: 1974) is a Montreal born sculptor who frequently represents Canada abroad and whose intricate works call to mind miniature stage sets, museum dioramas and architectural models. (Above: installation at Château de Versailles, Bosquet des Trois Fontaines, France)

Altmejd  earned a BFA from the Université du Québec in Montreal (1998) and an MFA from Columbia University in New York (2001). Galerie SKOL in Montreal hosted his first solo exhibition in 1998 as he developed his repertoire of incongruous elements (handcrafted werewolf heads and limbs, Stars of David, crystals, mirrors, fake hair, junk jewelry). Above: The Flux and the Puddle at MNBAQ

The Vessel, 2011. Plexiglas, chain, plaster, wood, thread, wire, acrylic paint, epoxy resin, epoxy clay, acrylic gel, granular medium, quartz, pyrite, assorted minerals, adhesive, wire, pins, needles. 102.5 H x 244 W x 86.5 D inches. Artist’s website.

From FLUX, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, France

Drawing equally on his interests in biology and mythology,  Altmejd combines the world of science with that of animist traditions and ancient legends. His hybrid creatures bring together grotesque and abject elements to explore worlds of dreams, nightmares, science, and fantasy.

Brant Foundation Art Study Center, Greenwich, CT, 2011

His work often juxtaposes seduction and monstrosity, as Altmejd believes “things only really exist when they are paradoxical.” The image from Versailles (top of this post) is a werewolf, embodying the sudden release of uncontrollable forces. The werewolf symbolizes a host of classic opposites: human and animal, good and evil, life and death, beauty and abjection.

For the 2007 Venice Biennale, Altmejd created The Index, a darkly surreal installation of mirrors, stalagmites, weeds, impaled half-creatures, spindly pine trees and a life-size figure in a business suit whose head has been replaced with that of a bird, all of which seem suspended in continuous violent metamorphosis – Guggenheim profile 

(The Index, above) Steel, foam, wood, glass, mirror, Plexiglas, lighting system, silicone, resin, taxidermy birds and animals, synthetic plants, synthetic tree branches, bronze, fiberglass, paint, burlap, leather, pine cones, horse hair, chains, wire, feather. 131 H x 510 1/2 W x 363 1/4 D inches

Detail, installation at Versailles, the image shown at the top of this post.

After showing at the Istanbul Biennial in 2003 and New York’s Whitney Biennial in 2004, Altmejd represented Canada at the Venice Biennale in 2007, and went on to win the Sobey Art Award two years later. His work can be found in public and private collections across Canada and around the world, including the National Gallery of Canada.

David Altmejd, White Cube Gallery. Image: Vincent Dillo

David Altmejd’s website, here.

At the National Gallery of Canada, here

Represented by White Cube, here.

NOTE:  David Altmejd’s first exhibition in Asia, The Vibrating Man (below), opens at White Cube Hong Kong on 26 March 2019 and will include new sculptures.


This is #41 in the series 150 Artists.

9 replies »

  1. Wow! Sometimes I see these “seemingly crazy” pieces and they just don’t work for me, but his overwhelming sense of detail draws me into the intricate bits and it enthralls!


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