A major exhibition of multiples, or works produced in editions, by the legendary German artist Joseph Beuys (1921-86) opens to the public at the Irish Museum of Modern Art on Wednesday 5 May. Joseph Beuys Multiples, drawn primarily from the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, will be the largest exhibition of Beuys’ work seen in Ireland. It is also one of the most important showings of his multiples ever organised and includes many of his best known and most influential works.
For Beuys his multiples represented a vehicle for communication – a means of disseminating his ideas across time and space. From 1965 to 1985, he produced almost 600 multiples in a variety of media, including graphic works, found objects, photographs, audio tapes and films. Each one encapsulates a specific moment in Beuys’ life or work: an idea, a performance, a lecture, an exhibition. As a group they provide a near complete picture of his richly diverse output, inspired by his belief in the unity of art and life and his desire to communicate his ideas for social change. In 1970, Beuys was asked why he chose to make multiples, he responded, “It’s a matter of two intersecting things. Naturally, I search for a suitable quality in an object, which permits multiplication …. But actually, it’s more important to speak of distribution, of reaching a larger number of people.”
Some 300 works are being shown at IMMA. They comprise a large number of works incorporating felt (Beuys’ signature material evoking images of protection and warmth), as well as containers, printed matter, postcards and videos and include many of Beuys’ most famous works, such as Sled (1969), Felt Suit (1970) and Rose for Direct Democracy (1973). Works are arranged thematically based on key ideas explored by Beuys, such as nature, healing, communication and political activism.
Born in Krefeld, northwestern Germany in 1921, Joseph Beuys originally planned a career in medicine but in 1940 joined the airforce as a combat pilot. He was seriously injured on several occasions and ended the war in a British prisoner-of-war camp in Germany, experiences which were to influence,
at least obliquely, much of his subsequent work. Following the war he graduated from the Dusseldorf Academy of Art, where he became a professor in 1961, a post from which he was dismissed in 1971 for insisting that admission be open to all who wished to apply.
During the 1960s Dusseldorf developed into an important centre for contemporary art and particularly for a group of artists, the Fluxus group, who promoted a new fluidity between individual art forms and between the arts and everyday life. Their ideas were a catalyst for Beuys’ performances or “actions” and his conviction that art could play a wider role in society. As the decades advanced, Beuys commitment to political reform increased and he became involved in the founding of several activist movements, including the Free International University and the Green Party. His reputation in the international art world grew, particularly after a 1979 retrospective at New York’s Guggenheim Museum. He lived the last years of his life at a hectic pace, participating in dozens of exhibitions and travelling widely on behalf of his organisations. He died in 1986 in Düsseldorf.
Joseph Beuys Multiples is drawn largely from the Alfred and Marie Greisinger Collection, purchased by the Walker in 1992, supplemented by objects, documentary photographs and other materials from public and private collections. It is curated by Joan Rothfuss, a Walker Associate. The exhibition is organised by Walker Art Center, Minneapolis. Major support for Joseph Beuys Multiples has been provided by Ceridian Corporation and DataCard Corporation in honour of Hans Graf von der Goltz. Additional support has been provided by the Rudolf Steiner Foundation. This exhibition is part of the Walker Art Center’s “New Definitions/New Audiences” initiative, a museum-wide project to engage visitors in a re-examination of 20th-century art is made possible by the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund.
The exhibition is also travelling to the Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha; the Barbican Art Gallery, London; the San Jose Museum of Art and the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, Florida.
A programme of lectures and talks is being organised to coincide with the exhibition. On Wednesday 5 May at 11.30am the noted authority on Beuys Professor Richard Demarco presents a lecture entitled Journeying with Beuys in the Celtic World 1970-1986. On the same day at 1.00pm Joan Rothfuss of the Walker Center will give a guided tour of the exhibition. Booking essential for both events.
A talk by artist Nigel Rolfe takes place at 3.00pm on Sunday 9 May and at 3.00pm on Sunday 16 May a lecture by art historian and critic Dorothy Walker on Beuys in Ireland. A catalogue raisonné of multiples and prints, edited by Jörg Schellmann with texts by Jörg Schellman, Bernd Klüser, Dierk Stemmler, Peter Nisbet, Joan Rothfuss, James Cuno and Kathy Halbreich, is available. Price £76.20.
The exhibition is jointly sponsored by Bank Gesellschaft Berlin (Ireland) plc,
B. Braun Medical Ltd, Deutsche Bank/DB Ireland plc, Montgomery Oppenheim, Oppenheim International Finance, Rheinhyps Bank Europe plc and SGZ-Bank Ireland plc.
Joseph Beuys Multliples continues until 19 September 1999.
Admission is free.
14 April 1999
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