Joseph Beuys

Joseph Beuys (Krefeld, 1921 – Düsseldorf, 1986) is among the most emblematic artists of the second half of the twentieth century. His research moves along unprecedented paths, inextricably merging his existential story with his being an artist. A radical case of overlap between art and life.

During World War II he served as pilot in the German air force, participating in the Nazi offensive against the Russians but his plane was shot down. He was found dying and half-frozen by a group of nomadic Tatars who cure him by wrapped his body in fat and felt. He will attribute great importance to this event. Felt and natural materials will always be present in his artistic production, and the felt hat will become a characteristic element of his image. From this experience Beuys draws the motifs of inspiration that have accompanied him throughout his activity, conducted along a mysterious thread of spiritual rebirth.

After the war, he studied art at the Düsseldorf Academy, where in the early 1960s he obtained the chair of monumental sculpture.
He participated in the first manifestations of the Fluxus group (a group of European and American artists united by a desire to recreate the meaning of art in relation to its social fruition), defining from this time his work in the area of performance.

Beuys used a wide range of highly symbolic materials, such as felt, fat or honey, which are closely related to the shamanic aspects of his practice that included performances, lectures and educational actions. His interest in the generation, storage and transmission of energy articulates his extensive reflection on the forces of nature. Teaching was an essential element of his artistic work and his anti-bureaucratic philosophy included debates and political activism intended to bring about social change through democratic discussions and actions. He brought politics into the traditional realms of art by converting his areas at Documenta in 1972 and in 1977 into spaces for debate and discussion on issues ranging from human rights to ecological concerns.
He died in Düsseldorf in 1986.