Artwork Data


Twisted Totem


Peter Otto






300 cm

Partial collection


Artwork Location


Kalvermarkt, Den Haag

City district


GPS data

52.078391259246, 4.3179160893021 View on map

Artwork Description


A strange bronze creature with remarkably recognisable attributes. Ambiguous and at the same time unclear, that is what irritates an observer about Peter Otto's sculpture 'Twisted Totem' in the centre of The Hague.

Otto wanted to make a sculpture that "openly invites mockery or ridicule, against which one can water or, as in Mecca, throw stones to drive away Satan. An image that offers access to imperfection and unfinishedness, that offers the opportunity to make a wish or lay a flower. Hence the details with a mug, a plate (offerings to gods and ancestors), the stool for the paralysed foot, the gun that becomes not a gun, but a hand gesture, a long nose perhaps.

The artist made this sculpture for the Sculpture Gallery as a response to the many sculptures in the public space that mark an event or person, that serve to commemorate, venerate or commemorate, or that are there merely to embellish. The work is inspired by the so-called 'Talking Statues' in Rome. There, since the 16th century, sculptures have been present in streets and squares where the city-dwellers can spout their criticism of politics and society in the form of poems and texts.

Whereas in his early paintings Otto drew inspiration from the "wild painting" of artists such as Georg Baselitz and Markus Lüpertz, in the mid-1980s he was more impressed by the work of American painter Philip Guston (1913-1980). Otto particularly admired the radical way in which Guston combined classical themes with images from everyday culture.

Like Guston, Otto combines his knowledge of art history, the harshness of reality and everyday trivialities. The result is an intriguing world in which order and chaos, good and evil coexist side by side: 'Twisted Totem'.