Joseph Beuys

Joseph Beuys is know as
  • Performance artist
  • Sculptor
  • Drawer
  • Art theoretician

Joseph Beuys (1921 – 1986) is one of the most important action artists, who entered art history through his happenings, performances and installations. Legendary is his saying “every man is an artist”. In addition to artistic creation Beuys shaped his time through controversial debates on art, politics, the environment and social coexistence. In the dispute with the administration of the Düsseldorf Art Academy for the admission of new students, it came in 1972 to scandal: together with his students, Beuys occupied the office of the university, after which he was dismissed by the then Minister of Science Johannes Rau without notice. Beuys is now considered one of the most influential artists of the second half of the 20th century.

Beuys was master student with Ewald Mataré at the Düsseldorf Art Academy until 1953. In 1961 he was appointed professor of monumental sculpture and counted today world-famous artists such as Katharina Sieverding, Jörg Immendorff, Blinky Palermo and Sigmar Polke to his students. Beuys described teaching as his greatest art.


He described the difficulty of explaining things in his legendary performance „Wie man dem toten Hasen die Bilder erklärt“ (1965), in which he explains his art for three hours to a dead rabbit covered in honey and gold leaf. Already in 1964 Beuys had attended the Documenta III in Kassel. This was followed by solo exhibitions, which brought commercial success. His gallerist René Block sold the installation “The pack (das Rudel)” in 1969, which consisted of an old VW bus and 24 sleds, for then incredible 100,000 DM on the Cologne art market, the precursor of today’s Art Cologne.

The market for his works then increased significantly. In the art compass of 1973 Beuys took fourth place in front of Yves Klein, 1978 second and in 1979 and 1980 the first place, even before Robert Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol. In 1980, the Munich Lenbachhaus bought the work “zeige deine Wunde“, composed of old corpses and fat, for 270,000 marks. Due to the unusual materials and the difficult accessibility of the work, it was considered “the most expensive bulky waste ever”. In 2016 Beuys cracked the limit of an auction sale of one million USD for the first time.

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