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A view of the Ryan Gander water fountain sculpture with the Eden biome's in the background

To employ the mistress... It's a French toff thing

Ryan Gander’s marble drinking fountain is a playful sculpture exploring the classical traditions of water features in gardens.

Ryan Gander

Ryan Gander
To employ the mistress… It’s a French toff thing, 2015

Every day we see it, drink it, feel it, wash in it. It courses through our bodies, our society and our planet. It makes up 60% of us and we can only live a few days without it. Water is our lifeblood, yet it is often taken for granted. Time to view it through a few different lenses.

‘To employ the mistress… It’s a French toff thing’, 2015, is a marble drinking fountain fabricated in the likeness of his wife Rebecca, leaning in for a kiss with the artist, and playfully spitting water. 

Ryan Gander's sculpture drinking water fountain with the Eden gardens and biome in the background

The sculpture connects the everyday, the esoteric, the overlooked and the commonplace.

The sculpture set in the Eden gardens

Originally commissioned by the High Line, New York, the sculpture plays with the tradition of fountains in classical gardens, where mythological divinities, imaginary animals and other strange creatures are turned into whimsical 'natural' springs. He extends this historical sculptural practice by inserting a living person's representation into a contemporary public garden and inviting adventurous visitors to drink from her mouth. 

About the artist

Ryan Gander OBE was born in Chester in 1976. He has established an international reputation through artworks that materialise in many different forms – from sculpture to film, writing, graphic design, installation, performance and more besides.

Through associative thought processes that connect the everyday and the esoteric, the overlooked and the commonplace, Ryan Gander’s work involves a questioning of language and knowledge, as well as a reinvention of both the modes of appearance and the creation of an artwork.

His work can be reminiscent of a puzzle, or a network with multiple connections and the fragments of an embedded story. It is ultimately a huge set of hidden clues to be deciphered, encouraging viewers to make their own associations and invent their own narrative in order to unravel the complexities staged by the artist. 

For more information visit Ryan Gander's website

Discover the art at Eden


This artwork is part of the Invisible Worlds exhibition, supported by the Wellcome Trust, Arts Council England, and the Wolfson Foundation.

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Lottery Funded, Arts Council England logo
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Find out more about art at the Eden Project