Joseph Beuys

Biography of Joseph Beuys

Joseph Beuys (born 1921 in Krefeld, DE; died 1986, Düsseldorf, DE) was one of the most prominent figures of the German Fluxus movement and a paramount figure in art history. His artistic practice is incredibly vast incorporating drawing, performance, installation, painting, and sculpture, and touching on humanitarian, political, biological and geographical themes. At the center of his art practice where his gesamtkunstwerk or what came to be known as social sculpture—a fusing of a participatory audience and artist, resulting in society becoming one work of art.

Joseph Beuys firmly believed that there is more to art than merely creating a finished product. An artist's mission, instead, lies in communicating a message. For Beuys the actual doing—the physical action—was more important than the end product, resulting in a body of work that is challenging to document, archive, and exhibit.

Considering the ephemerality of Joseph Beuys' unique works, his multiples become all the more interesting, as these were objects meant to be kept, objects that carried and communicated a message. Throughout his career, Beuys produced 557 multiples, each one a carrier of ideas, and an ideal medium to passing on his knowledge and theories on to the greater public. Due to Beuys having made such a large collection of multiples, we are able to get a good overview of his career, even of those moments that the public will not have been able to witness or document.

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