The incongruous sight of a dry stone wall shed taking shape in the Royal Academy's classical courtyard has had visitors scratching their heads in recent weeks.
It's there because of Modern British Sculpture, which opens in the RA's Main Galleries this weekend. The shed is a reproduction of artist Kurt Schwitters' Merz Barn, the disused Cumbrian farm building that the German émigré was in the midst of transforming into a hybrid of architecture and installation art when he died in 1948.
The Merz Barn was a typically multi-disciplinary work for Schwitters. Associated with Dada and Constructivism early in his career, Schwitters came to reject most 'isms' in favour of his own term - 'Merz'. His innovatory approach was an early form of assemblage art, combining painting, sculpture and collage with a hoard of found objects such as newspaper clippings and bus tickets. 'Merz' was itself a found object of sorts - Schwitters reportedly spotted it in a newspaper fragment in one of his collages.
In the film below, the RA's Dr Adrian Locke explains why the Merz Barn was chosen for the courtyard and puts it in the context of Schwitters' life and career: