A blue chiffon sheet blown by a fan. Pretty simple. However the very simplicity of this work is what makes it intriguing. The rhythm of the movement evokes a kind of calmness. The fabric distorts almost noiselessly with every breath of wind of the oscillating fan. Affiliated with the ZERO group at that time (an international art movement active from the late 1950s until the mid-1960s), the German artist Hans Haacke (1936) saw this minimalist installation as traditional sculpture.
Best known for his pioneering role in institutional critique of the art world, Haacke started his career in the late 1950s with a slightly different focus, photographs. A decade later he dealt with natural processes as water’s thawing and condensation (Condensation Cube, 1963-1965, as best example, a moisture-filled plexiglas cube whose appearance changed constantly in relation to its environment), or the movement of air currents. Blue Sail is made during that same period.
Seen two years ago in a former factory in Maastricht, the Netherlands, Blue Sail was my introduction to a different Hans Haacke, a Haacke that was more subtle than any work on institutional critique he made later on. A pleasant discovery.