Joseph Beuys

15 march - 6 june, 1994 /
Sabatini Building, Floor 4
Exhibition view. Joseph Beuys , 1994
Exhibition view. Joseph Beuys , 1994

Known as as a traveller, nomad and shaman - as a person capable of transiting through the various levels where human life takes place (sky, earth and underground) - Joseph Beuys (Krefeld, 1921 - Dusseldorf, 1986) defends art as a cleansing nature, based on the principles of suffering, death and rebirth. In the second half of the Forties, Beuys breaks into the European art scene and embarks on a project that questions the role of creativity, art and the artist in the era of post-capitalist and post-socialist socialism. For this he formulates the notion of man-creator and vindicates, as necessary for the achievement and recognition of the free-man in a free world, the principle of social art.

The exhibition, a tour through his forty-year artistic career, is composed of more than fifty sculptures and installations and the four hundred and fifty-six prints that make up The secret block for a secret person in Ireland (1945-1976), an album that includes a collection of his drawings where he develops his poetic language and allegorical vision of the world. In addition sixteen pieces of his work are put on display: glass boxes which gather heterogeneous objects and in relative disorder, referring to memory and time and fill the space with energy and tension, striking beauty and filth, spiritual life and a phenomenological vision. These works reveal the principle intended by the artist: that everything is sculpture; he equates sculpture to thinking, since both concepts are a creative process which is achieved by shaping an idea. At this point we must recall the importance Beuys attaches to oral expression as an expression equivalent in his complete work, and which he develops both in his role as professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Dusseldorf, in his actions, seminars and interventions in the “Documenta” in the Seventies or from FIU (Free International University) which he founded.

This collection of works illustrate the imagery and iconography developed by Beuys throughout his career, where the vocabulary of scientific origin and his spiritual vocation finds its match in the materials, signs and tools that dominate his work. In this way, social art is fundamental in the union between strength (heat / energy / chaos) and orientation (shape / cold / order), which are embodied respectively in fat and felt: Silla grasienta (1964-1965), Fondo VII/2 (1967-1984) and Monumento al ciervo para George Maciunas. (1982). To these other recurring items are added such as animals, crosses, copper, blackboards or musical instruments, as shown in Fuerzas de orientación (1974-1977) or in Infiltración homogénea para violonchelo (1967-1985). These materials are marked by their non-artistic character, along with the physical processes - many of them characterised by their flexibility, malleability and their insulating nature - suggesting a reconsideration of art and audience participation which is evident in works such as Plight (1985) . On the other hand, and without considering himself as a Fluxus artist, even though he participated in some of those encounters, with them he shares the desire of breaking up boundaries in all artistic disciplines, in addition to insisting on binomial art-life to reach its uniqueness.

Exhibition´s details

Organized by: 
Kunsthaus Zürich in collaboration with Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
Harald Szeemann
Exhibition Tour: 

Kunsthaus, Zürich (November 25, 1993 - February 20, 1994); Musée National d'Art Moderne Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (June 28 – September 26, 1994)