Head of John the Baptist on a platter

Oliver Laric

Head of John the Baptist on a platter, 2020

Oliver Laric (b.1981 in Innsbruck, Austria) converts qualities of the digital age, such as reproduction, limitless variability, and instant distribution into the physical realm. His 3D scanned sculptures challenge our understanding of art and conventional modes of arts institutionalization, including the complex legal ambiguities of copyright and rights of use. His effort to make art that is traditionally locked in a museum, accessible to an increasingly digital society, regardless of social, geographical or cultural boundaries, on the one hand, challenges traditional modes of art institutionalism, while on the other, democratizes art, by stripping it of constrains to private ownership.

Made from a mix of marble pigments, granite and aluminum powder, the sculpture is based on a 3D scan of a wooden “original” found at the Bode Museum in Berlin, depicting St John the Baptist’s head. In both sculpture and painting, the so-called Johannesschüssel or caput Iohannis in disco is a typical devotional image in the Middle Ages. Its concept is based on Salome’s words: “Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.” It was used in performative activities, and the circular platter was made to correspond to the circular movements of the ritual dance. This particular head stands out for its realistic form, and in its original state has a hole in the back of the head that serves as a space for a relic crystal. In the 3D sculpting process, Laric has modified the head, concealing this space with sculpted hair. By this gesture, Laric questions originality, authorship, and the idea of an authentic artwork.

Oliver Laric has exhibited his work at S.M.A.K. (Ghent), Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, Guggenheim (Bilbao, Spain), São Paulo Biennale, ICA Boston, Centre Pompidou (Paris), Whitechapel Gallery (London), ExtraCity Kunsthalle (Antwerp), Kunstlerhouse Benthanien (Berlin), Palais de Tokyo (Paris), Saint Louis Art Museum (St. Louis, Missouri), among others. Laric's work is part of the collection of the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, MN), Nouveau Musée National de Monaco (Monaco), MUMOK (Vienna), Ferdinandeum (Innsbruck, Austria), Kunsthaus Bregenz (Bregenz, Austria), The Collection Museum (Lincoln, UK), Kunstsammlung (Dusseldorf, Germnay), Museum für Moderne Kunst (Frankfurt, Germany), Cleveland Art Museum (Cleveland, Ohio), Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (Washington, D.C.), Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam), Frac Bretagne (Rennes, France), among others.