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Diminishing Returns

Standing Julian 2015 by Urs Fischer

Standing Julian, 2015, by Urs Fischer Wax, pigment, steel, and wicks

Artists have the ability to capture moments in time, space, and love in multiple mediums. Sometimes these creations are fleeting and other times they last for an eternity. At the Whitney Museum in New York City, there is a particular portrait of a painter by the name of Julian Schnabel, created by Urs Fischer that “evokes the inevitable transience of life.”

Urs Fischer formed this sculpture of his friend from wax. A larger than life version of Julian is displayed in an open room where smoke is seen rising from his neck. Not too long ago Julian’s waxed face fell off and currently lays beside his body. Noticeable rivers of solidified wax emit from the sculptures neck running down its chest and legs. Soon Julian will become nothing more than a mound of melted wax and wait for Urs to recycle the material to recast his everlasting friend.

We can presume that Urs created this sculpture of Julian to represent how inspirational he can be, as Julian is dressed in painter’s garb and Urs too is an artist, sculptor/painter. Or we can also view this sculpture as an analogy of how nothing is meant to last forever and we must cherish each moment while we can.

Every morning museum curators light Julian’s three wicks and extinguish them every night. During the day visitors sit, stand, and share a moment with Julian and watch him morph into nothingness.


  1. zxiao wrote:

    Great post! I really like this piece when I visited the Whitney Museum. I love this idea so much because I can’t image how this candle will be changed. The burning direction of the candle is unknown, and I hope I can go back to see how it looks at the end.

    Monday, October 31, 2016 at 7:14 pm | Permalink
  2. jrouse5 wrote:

    This is a great art piece! I really like your summary of the work, really quality examination – no joke. To me it reminds me of the whole idea of being a great person but slowly suscept to the human body, to lose yourself. Or maybe it could have to do with the idea of people losing their memories as they age. Really good piece though.

    Tuesday, November 1, 2016 at 6:39 pm | Permalink
  3. tbatzori wrote:

    I really liked this piece because of several reasons. One, it was and is the biggest candle I’ve ever seen. Two, the experience I had with this piece cannot be repeated because even if I went back the next day, it will be slightly smaller. And three, the candle sculpture was just beautiful.

    Wednesday, November 2, 2016 at 3:27 pm | Permalink