The material is cast aluminium, highly polished. Schutte made 17 different versions of Grosse Geister, each in a trio in aluminium, bronze and steel. Schutte creates the shapes in miniature using extruded plastic modelling material.
The work's title translates rather badly into English, apparently. Literally, it means Great Ghosts or Big Spirits, but the connotations of spirituality, greatness of mind, otherworldliness and so on are lost.
Its towering presence (it is 8ft 6in tall) and strange swirly shape have inspired critics to very inventive descriptions including "part Darth Vader, part Pillsbury Doughboy", "licorice humanoids" and, from the Gherkin's own website, "a cross between Ghostbusters, the Michelin Man, Michael Jackson moonwalking, Terminator 2 and a burger bar customer."
I hope the money men who pass it every day treat the great spirit with more respect. In 2010, Phillips sold one for $4.1m.