On the occasion of his Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP) major solo exhibition Alfredo Jaar, the pioneering Chilean artist, has chosen the first in our new series ‘Masterpiece in a Nutshell’ encapsulating his thoughts on this public sculpture. Widely regarded as one of the world’s most politically engaging yet poetic artists, Jaar addresses humanitarian trauma and the politics of image-making, creating visually and emotionally stunning works that have an exceptional aesthetic. This important exhibition at YSP also includes the premiere of his new open-air installation, The Garden of Good and Evil which runs until 8 April 2018.

Le Socle du Monde (The Base of the World) is, in my view, the masterpiece of the twentieth century. It embodies, in the simplest yet most beautiful way, the extraordinary potential of art to transform things and to transform minds.

Manzoni, Le Socle du Monde
Piero Manzoni, Le Socle du Monde, detail, 1961, bronze 82×100×100cm., Herning Museum of Contemporary Art, Denmark (photo: Alfredo Jaar)

By simply inscribing upside-down on a bronze plinth the words ‘The Base of the World, Homage To Galileo’, Manzoni turned it into a pedestal, and hence turned the entire earth into a sculpture.

To me, this work distills some of the greatest elements of art into one single artwork: poetry, simplicity of means, accessibility of a message, and ability to transform the world.

Its economy of means is mind-blowing – like a haiku, it manages to express everything with almost nothing.

Main image: Piero Manzoni, Le Socle du Monde, 1961, bronze 82×100×100cm., Herning Museum of Contemporary Art, Denmark (photo: Alfredo Jaar)