Exploring Contemporary Art - British Art Show 8

Andrea Buttner - Tischschmuck (2013)

Artist Biography: 

Andrea Buttner was born in 1972 in Stuttgart, Germany. She lives and works in both London and Frankfurt. Buttner completed a PhD thesis at the Royal College of Art focusing on art and shame. She explores the place of art within contemporary ‘shameless’ culture of tabloid journalism and reality television.


Andrea Buttner’s art work references art history – from German expressionism to Modernism. Religious themes and iconography also crop up, for example, she made a film using film footage of life in a convent recorded by nuns, Little Works (2007) showing the nuns using traditional craft processes or techniques to make things.


As well as drawing on varied subjects for inspiration, Buttner has worked in many different mediums, some of which involve collaboration with others (for example recording passages from another artist’s diary and presenting her father’s drawings). Her art works range from prints to paintings, drawings to photographs, clay models, fabric paintings and films. 

She uses both traditional, very personal craft techniques (woodcuts, glass painting and woven fabrics) and more distant forms such as video footage and performance pieces. By using both types of media she questions which is the most significant or meaningful.

Tischschmuck [Table decorations] (2013)

Andrea Buttner created 13 tabletop displays for a dinner at the Museum für Moderne Kunst Zollamt in Frankfurt. Talks given at the dinner and the general conversation were recorded.

From this the artist created a grouping of four dining tables covered with blue, green, red and yellow cloths topped with glass. On each table are zebra droppings, which Buttner cast in bronze. These are contrasted with images of artworks beneath the glass, such as Vincent Van Gogh’s The Potato Eaters. 

Speakers sit on top of the tables, playing the recorded dinner conversation. The recording refers to the uneasy relationship between art and capitalism.

Discussion ideas:

  • What does Tischschmuck make you think of or feel?
  • Why do you think Buttner has chosen to use a dinner party as the inspiration and content for this art work?
  • Buttner investigates the connection between shame and art. How do you think these two things might be linked?
  • Why might an artist use a variety of different media in their work?

View other relevant My Learning resources or see the teachers' notes page for discussion and activity ideas. 

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