Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset have been developing their careers as artists working in collaboration since they first met in 1995. Even though their early creations were performances, most of their subsequent work was of a sculptural nature, and gradually extended into surrounding space to the point of recreating buildings and environments.
Perhaps the core of their artistic expression is homosexuality, not only considered from the point of view of activism but from a criticism largely pervaded by sarcasm regarding some of the related social customs and clichés. In their hands a urinal—an iconic object both for contemporary art and for gay culture—is exploited in their approach to issues such as marriage or promiscuity.
Another interesting aspect of their work is the presence of mechanisms relating to contemporary art. They challenge the white cube as an official exhibition space, burying it, suspending it from balloons so that it floats, making it undulate like a slide or breaking its walls to open it up to the outside world. A clear example of this is their acclaimed 2005 intervention funded by the Art Production Fund and Ballroom Marfa—the construction of a Prada shop in the middle of the Texan desert.
The natural evolution of their work has led them to produce increasingly large and more complex pieces, culminating in their recreation of spaces that at first sight appear to be real: in Please, keep quiet! (2003), the artists turned an exhibition room at the SMK–National Gallery of Denmark in Copenhagen into a sterile hospital ward that is now part of the museum’s permanent collection. The Welfare Show at London’s Serpentine Gallery (2006), among other venues, consisted of a whole series of institutional corridors, waiting rooms and administrative spaces, with varying iterations. In 2009 the artist duo redesigned the Danish and Norwegian pavilions at the 53rd Venice Biennale as the homes of wealthy art collectors with their acclaimed exhibition The Collectors, and in 2013 they changed the Victoria and Albert Museum’s former textile galleries into the grand family home of a disillusioned, elderly architect with the exhibition Tomorrow. In their show Aéroport Mille Plateaux, Elmgreen & Dragset transformed Samsung Museum’s PLATEAU in Seoul into a dysfunctional airport.
Amigos, 2011. Impresión UV-digital sobre alu-dibond, neón. 120 x 84 x 12 cm [Ref# 40491] 69, 2011. Instalación compuesta de madera, pomo, bisagras, capazo, dummy. Puerta: 218,5 x 104,5 x 9 cm; bebé: 22 x 70 x 31 cm [Ref# 40644] Locker Room, 2011. Instalación compuesta de cesta de ropa, taquillas, banco, letrinas, espejas, cesta con huevos, máquinas de condones, billetera, ropa. Dimensiones variables [Ref# 40492] Locker Room (detalle), 2011. Instalación compuesta de cesta de ropa, taquillas, banco, letrinas, espejas, cesta con huevos, máquinas de condones, billetera, ropa. Dimensiones variables [Ref# 40492] New Blood, 2011. Instalación compuesta de figura de resina de mármol, gotero, dispensador de transfusiones. 150 x 140 x 190 cm [Ref# 40644] Gay Marriage, 2010. 2 urinarios de porcelana, tubo de acero. 110 x 43 x 123 cm [Ref# 40488] The Black and White Diary, fig. 5, 2009. 364 c-prints con marco de piel blanco. Dimensiones variables [Ref# 40035] Paravent, 2008. Instalación compuesta de madera, metal, pantalones vaqueros. 178 x 195 x 60 cm [Ref# 39716] Phone Home, 2003. Instalación compuesta de 5 cabinas telefónicas. 262 x 96 x 132 cm c/u [Ref# 39736] Ingar Dragset & Michael Elmgreen en la exposición Celebrity—The One & The Many [ZKM | Museum für Neue Kunst, Karlsruhe, Alemania: 06.11.2010—27.01.2011]. Foto: Matthias Weiß. @ Elmgreen & Dragset / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2010