Skip to content

Update from the Gallery regarding COVID-19

The Art Gallery of New South Wales is open. In line with decisions made by the National Cabinet as communicated by the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, the Gallery is observing strict physical distancing and hygiene measures to protect the health of all visitors and staff and minimise the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus), including timed-entry tickets. More information




Australian art

Contemporary art

View More:


Stair with contents



Ricky Swallow


1974 -


'My work has always been about translation, passing a subject though various processes on the way to a fixed or permanent state, with each different material influencing the creation of new forms'.
Ricky Swallow, 2011

Ricky Swallow's 'Stair with contents' 2013 is a taxonomy of utensils and instruments presented on a set of four steps. These proportionally scaled yet abstracted objects include drinking vessels, a smoking pipe, a cruciform, the body of a guitar, piping and fans, among other curious structures. Swallow has drawn inspiration from forms of 'collective ownership' and the 'economy' of American folk art and 'make-dos' - items he has found on display in flea markets and antique fairs that have been reimagined and transformed to extend their use. They have associations with daily use and the body, but also 'bootleg' various styles of modern art, design and architecture, notably motifs synonymous with Pablo Picasso, Man Ray and Rene Magritte.

'Stair with contents' began life as a model fabricated from cardboard bits and pieces, which was then cast in bronze at the foundry the artist nicknames the 'Swallow's Nest'. The sculpture has inherited the flimsiness and imperfect charm of the mould which is contradicted by its monumental presence and metallic grey patina.

Swallow explains of these 'object studies' that 'the material change from cardboard to bronze seems like a way to finalize the form without losing its studio-built logic'.


Place where the work was made

Los Angeles California United States of America



Media category


Materials used

patinated bronze


1 AP + 1/1


55.9 x 88.9 x 55.9 cm

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Contemporary Collection Benefactors 2015


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Ricky Swallow

Works in the collection


Shown in 2 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 5 publications


Stuart Comer, Anthony Elms and Michelle Grabner (Curators), Whitney Biennial 2014, 'Ricky Swallow speaks with Matt Connors', pg. 388-389, New York, 2014, 388-389. general reference

Xenia Hanusiak.,, 'Australian artists play with American emblems at the Whitney Biennial', Australia, 01 Apr 2014, n.pag.. incorrectly titled 'Stairs with contents'; viewed 26.01.2015,

Michael Ned Holte, Ricky Swallow: bronzes, 'Cardboard age', pg. 3-6, Sydney, 2013, 3-6. general reference

Leah Ollman, Art in America, 'Ricky Swallow in the studio', pg. 148-157, New York, May 2014, 151 (colour illus.). interview with the artist

Ricky Swallow'.,, '500 words, New York, Feb 2011, n.pag.. viewed 26.01.2015,