The boy from DunFreezin or thereabouts

The Ron Mueck sculpture ‘boy’

Boy is the result of 8 months of heavy grafting, and the nearly 5 metres tall squatting boy is made of glass fibre. While that material sounds light, the Australian artist Ron Mueck has reinforced the structure, and with his 500kgs (79 stones) there is no way of denying boy being overweight if calculated from his Body Mass Index.

But other than that, he strikes you as being the lad next door. Something which could be said about many of Mueck’s pieces including the angel in the Saatchi collection; and it is the very reason they work so well.

Boy sculpture by Mueck is an example of the psychological hyperreal introduced to British art

Ron Mueck was one of the defining artists of the 90s hyperrealism, a direction in art which is still much with us today, and probably will permanently. The sculpture, who is wearing shorts is squatting whilst looking quite intensely diagonally to the side of him – or gazing directly at us when we small ones stand on the floor. Except for the position of the head, this stance is inspired by the way aboriginees sit and look out in the plains and outback when they hunt.

Scale is part of the art vocabulary

Working in an unusual scale is one of the traits that Ron Mueck uses in his psychological hyperrealism to maximum effect. The fact that something is either huge or small forces us to take heed, and it somehow makes his art poignant and relevant to all of us. There is also a sense of honesty about it all. Here we (or rather the subjects) are being confronted with the existential og being human, being born, growing up, being pregnant, growing old and dying. There it all is with warts and all. There is nothing seemingly polished about it. In his work Mueck applies unwanted hair, acne, skin rashes and wrinkles to his persons.

The itinerary and destination of the sculpture

In 1999 Mueck’s Boy came into being in London, and was first on show at the London Millenium Dome, The following year, it was displayed at the Venice Biennale as one of the most loved and talked about pieces mounted at the exhibit.

Today, the sculpture resides in ARoS, Aarhus Kunstmuseum, one of the trendiest contemporary art museums in Scandinavia. At ARoS, boy has long taken up a prominent place in the entry foyer at the museum, but he recently moved and went on display in the exhibition No Man is an Island – The Satanic Verses on Level 6 in the AROS museum building.

Whether he will be moved back to his previous location, which was at times a draughty spot, remains to be seen. Mueck, with his deadpan Australian humour, promptly stated that had he known that the boy would go to Denmark, he would have issued him with a woolen jumper for the climate.

Toes don’t come much bigger

Ron Mueck turned out to be so delighted with the new home for the old boy, that he gave the museum some of the preliminary work necessary to make the piece.

It includes 4 smaller scale models, one of which is rubber, and another in clay. Then there are also 5 sketches and one computer simulation. Of course, along came also an extra full-scale big toe which is exactly what it says on the tin. It is 18 cm high, 29 cm wide and 22 cm deep. You never know it may come in handy one day, and either way it provides a unique if not fascinating idea of how the artist has worked in the context of the resulting sculpture.