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City Gallery City Gallery Wellington

Past exhibition

Joseph Beuys: Everyone Is an Artist

3 June–30 June 1991

SPONSOR Goethe Institut SPONSORS Mitsubishi Electric, Melco Sales

German sculptor and performance artist Joseph Beuys is one of the most influential artists of the postwar period. Born in 1921, he fought in World War II and was injured in a plane crash in 1943—an experience that would inform his art. He enrolled in the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf in 1947. After being appointed professor of monumental sculpture there in 1961, he joins the Fluxus group with Nam June Paik and George Maciunas. Grounded in humanism, social philosophy, and anthroposophy, he promotes art as 'social sculpture', shaping politics and society. His motto is ‘everyone is an artist’. During the 1970s, Beuys is a political activist, helping found the German Student Party and the Green Party. He combines art and activism in works like 7000 Oaks (1982), in which thousands of oak trees are planted in Kassel, a city destroyed by bombing during World War II. Beuys dies in 1986.

This touring video exhibition shows that political activity is integral to Beuys's art. Documents and documentaries screen in the Cappuccino Bar and upstairs. The documents include a video of Beuys's seminal performance I Like America and America Likes Me (1974), where he spends three days locked in a gallery with a live coyote, armed only with felt blankets and a cane. The documentaries include Beuys, Celtic (1971) and Joseph Beuys: Transformer (1988). On the opening day, the Gallery runs an event, ‘A Tree for Free’. 600 trees donated by the Parks and Recreation Department are given away. People are invited to pick up a free seedling and watch the video programme.