Media celebrities and politicians are Wilkening’s subject, but unlike most celebrity magazines, he chooses to focus not on their good looks, wealth, royal and/or popular status and fashion sense. He attempts in this show (until 20 April), against the odds, to expand our appreciation of them. Although he shows eight figures of famous people, appropriately enough, in larger than life-size ceramic likenesses, he none the less depicts them barefoot, in sports dress (undoubtedly these visual semantics are meant to alert us to the sympathy the rich and famous have for ordinary people and to their need to relax from their strenuous duties), in attitudes reminiscent of Oriental warming up exercises (reminding us that their status is the result of the exercise of their considerable powers and of their need to prepare themselves for every public appearance). Among others, Wilkening honours Vladimir Putin, shown in a Yogic spine stretching exercise; Tony Blair, being given a classic Shiatsu stretch by Jean Claude van Cauwenberghe, the prime minister of Wallonia in Belgium.
Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Hartmut Wilkening: warming up'