Channel: Life & Style

Thursday, June 10, 2010
The Art of Chess
One of their most well known projects, ‘The Art of Chess’, is currently on tour in museums and galleries around the world including Iceland, Czech Republic and Australia.




‘Amorphous Organic’
Bog oak, brass, glass, bulbs, battery, copal, insects
Edition of 5
32 pieces: Tallest 8.5cm, Smallest 4cm
Board/Table: 73 x 70 x 70cm


Alastair Mackie (born 1977) is fascinated with the intricate details in our natural lives. His chess set is a logical evolution from a work he made in 2007, a set of dice cut from amber. The surface was set with mosquitoes that make up each of the die's digits. His chess set was influenced by seeing the amber collection in the Department of Palaeontology at the Natural History Museum in London. Each chess piece encapsulates a single suspended insect, perhaps millions of years old. The ‘white’ pieces are represented by flying insects and the ‘black’ side by ground based insects. So, for example, the ‘white’ knight is represented by an exotic wasp and the ‘black’ king, by a scorpion. The chessboard design takes its reference from a geological sample-viewing table. A light box has been set into the surface of the table to illuminate the insects trapped in the clear amber pieces. Specimen drawers in the side of the table house the pieces out of play. “Perhaps in this case each move, each little death, however small and insignificant in it's own right, has the potential to bring us closer to answering questions to do with the very existence of life on this planet, questions to do our own origins and future.”


Julia Royse, RS & A Ltd.


“From my close contact with artists and chess players I have come to the personal conclusion that while all artists are not chess players, all chess players are artists.” Marcel Duchamp, 1952.


One of their most well known projects, ‘The Art of Chess’, is currently on tour in museums and galleries around the world including Iceland, Czech Republic and Australia. This remarkable show consists of fifteen chess sets designed by some of the world’s leading contemporary artists as a celebration of the game and its continued relevance to the creative arts.


These specially commissioned chess sets have been created by the following artists: Maurizio Cattelan, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Oliver Clegg, Tracey Emin, Tom Friedman, Paul Fryer, Damien Hirst, Barbara Kruger, Yayoi Kusama, Paul McCarthy, Alastair Mackie, Matthew Ronay, Tunga, Gavin Turk and Rachel Whiteread. Each set is individually crafted in a variety of different materials including wood, porcelain, glass, amber and silver and packaged to the artist's specified wishes.


The exact origin of chess is unclear but is believed to have originated in the 7th century in India. No other game in history has been so widely reflected in art and literature. Due to its conceptual depth and deep roots in civilization, chess remains an intriguing and complex subject for the Artist. The infinite incantations of chess sets throughout history, which have closely followed artistic movements, is a testament to this and is continued into the present with the current artists creating outstanding works of art, each infused with their own signature style.


For example, Rachel Whiteread set out to pursue her love of dollhouses when creating her game from miniature furniture. Tom Friedman’s chess set is equally intricate and playful, setting out to be a mini-retrospective of the artist’s best-known works. Barbara Kruger has created the first ever talking chess set with each piece specially programmed so that, when moved, it either asks a question or makes a statement. The set by Damien Hirst has glass and silver casts of medicine bottles with etched silver labels that act as chess pieces. The Los Angeles artist Paul McCarthy is a keen chess player and his set is made from random objects found in his own kitchen such as a coffee grinder and a ketchup bottle serving as Rooks.


The Art of Chess exhibition demonstrates that the game has lost none of its inspirational power in the 21st century and that it continues to be an optimal means for artistic expression.


RS&A Ltd, London


Julia Royse is a director at RS&A Ltd. Formed in 2001, RS&A Ltd has, over the last nine years, been commissioning and presenting a number of thought-provoking and innovative projects, the intention of which were to celebrate the diversity of the creative spirit and so expand the manner in which we see and appreciate art within our everyday culture. In every case, RS&A approaches artists with a specific and well thought out concept, inviting the best artistic minds of today with which to collaborate on the realization of a single body of work. More details about the exhibition can be found on:


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