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The Essential Joseph Beuys

Alain Borer


The definitive introduction to one of the most important and influential artists in postwar visual arts


The Essential Joseph Beuys provides a definitive survey of the artist's oeuvre in every medium - drawings and watercolours, sculptures and objects, environments and actions, multiples and printed works - revealing the multifaceted creativity, formal inventiveness and wide conceptual range of an artist who has still not been adequately illuminated by previous assessments of him as a sculptor, teacher and revolutionary.

Beuys challenged the traditional narrow confines of art to embrace a much broader, philosophically based political practice, formulated in the dictum 'Everyone is an artist'. His long-term, radical aims included the introduction of direct democracy through referendum, free access to all educational institutions and a restructuring of the economy based on ecological necessity.

Arranged chronologically, this overview reflects the changes in Beuy's choice of register, from the soliloquy in his early days at Cleves to dialogue during his period as a teacher in Düsseldorf to the powerful language of public lectures for an international audience in later years. His unique poetic approach to the creative process transforms such materials as felt, fat, honey, blood, wax, copper and sulphur into ever more fluent and unlimited artistic forms.

In a broad-ranging discussion, Alain Borer summarizes Beuy's oeuvre, drawing out themes of extreme complexity with admirable clarity and revealing the versatility and profundity of one of the most important and original artists of the 20th century.

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Product Information

Book Details

Format: Hardback

Size: 30.9 x 23.8 cm

Extent: 240 pp

Illustrations: 160

Publication date: 27 January 1997

ISBN: 9780500092675

Contents List

Editor’s Foreword • Alain Borer: A Lament for Joseph Beuys • Plates • Editorial Notes to the Plates • I. Education and Invention: Cleves / Düsseldorf, 1945–1960 • II. The Academy, Düsseldorf, 1961–1972 • III. After the Academy: Berlin / Kassel / London / New York / Paris / Venice, 1973–1985 • Notes to the Captions

About the Author

Alain Borer is a French poet and writer. He has been a Professor at l’Ecole supérieure des beaux-arts de Tours since 1979, and a Visting Professor at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, since 2005.

List of Contributors

Lothar Schirmer