20th-century art world star's reputation grows abroad
Joseph Beuys has always been big in Europe. New exhibitions prove he's gaining ground the world over.
German artist Joseph Beuys was one of the 20th-century art world's most influential figures, a giant of conceptual art who worked in several mediums including sculpture, performance art and printmaking. Though beloved by artists of his era, and considered an equal of another provocateur, Andy Warhol, he has remained something of a cult figure outside of Europe. This year, however, a handful of new shows is proving that he has cache beyond that continent.
The first of the exhibitions is currently being held across Israel. Aptly titled "Beuys, Beuys, Beuys," it brings together artists of various disciplines. Liav Mizrahi spent three years scouting Israel for artists whose works he wanted to include in the exhibit, which is being held in seven different venues across the country.
"He had a big influence on Israeli artists at the time," Mizrahi told From The Grapevine of the decades when Beuys reached his height of popularity, the 1960s and 70s. "But in the USA, for example, he was never very famous, so I wanted to explore what made him so popular here and what his lasting influence was."
For Mizrahi, it was the mystery surrounding Beuys and his ability to defy categorization and go beyond the exterior that was attractive. "When you see Beuys, it is never what you see. It is his biography, yes, but it is also a lie," Mizrahi said of the artist who died in 1986.
The opening of the Broad Museum in Los Angeles earlier this year represented another significant moment for the artist's works. Philanthropist Eli Broad funded the construction of the museum for the explicit purpose of exhibiting the vast array of art owned by his Broad Foundation, among which is the largest collection of Beuys 'multiples' – small-scale pieces that represent different elements of his practice – in the world. When the museum opened to much fanfare this past September, many of these multiples were front and center.
The Beuys event that kicked off this exceptional year took place in February, in New York City. It was there that one of the world's foremost Beuys scholars, Dr. Eugen Blume, head of the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin, curated the largest ever show of Beuys multiples – some 500 were on display – in the city. In a telling sign of the city's embrace of the artist and his growing stature there, it's best to refer to his long ago remark that “If you have all my multiples, then you have me completely.”
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