Joseph Beuys

  • Born 1921 in Krefeld, Germany
  • Died 1986 in Düsseldorf, Federal Republic of Germany
Joseph Beuys was one of the most influential and controversial artists of postwar Germany. He began his artistic training in 1947 at the Kunstakademie (Art Academy) Düsseldorf. In 1953, the year of his graduation, he held his first solo exhibitions in Kraneburg and at the Von der Heydt Museum in Wuppertal. In 1958 he used the materials fat and felt for the first time. Beuys, who had been a Luftwaffe volunteer during World War II, built his artistic practice around the myth of him being rescued by nomadic Tartar tribesmen, who wrapped his cold and injured body in animal fat and felt, after his plane crash in 1944. In his actions and installations, such as Wie man dem toten Hasen die Bilder erklärt (How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare, 1965) he often included evocative objects and materials associated with his rescue and drew upon elements of shamanism. As a professor at Kunstakademie Düsseldorf from 1961 to 1972, Beuys fought for free admission to art education for everyone and pursued his holistic approach to art in society and politics. He participated in every Documenta from 1964 to 1989. The Moderna Museet in Stockholm organized his first international exhibition in 1971. His first retrospective was held at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York in 1979.

Artworks by Joseph Beuys in the exhibition