Sotheby’s is delighted to be offering five works from one of Germany’s most important collections of Joseph Beuys’ oeuvre in our upcoming Contemporary Art Day Auction. This carefully curated selection provides an outstanding cross-section of the quintessential motifs and concerns prevalent in the artist’s oeuvre and demonstrates the collector’s profound insight into the artist’s practice.
Germanin (Germanic Woman), which derives from a transitional period in Beuys' life, marks a moment of regained spirit after an intense phase of depression following his broken engagement in 1954; Beuys seems to have turned to the female figure for inspiration. In what could be regarded as a psychological reaction, nudes and female components thus appear frequently in the drawings and watercolours of this time. Alluding to the idea of a peculiar Germanic physiognomy, the work also speaks to the personal significance through the use of blood.
In yet another illustration of the collector’s deep knowledge of Beuys’ work, 2 Felt Blocks in front of Metal Sculpture features another signature motif in Beuys’ artistic vocabulary: felt, associated with a traumatic incident during the war time, thereby symbolises a protective, life-generating substance. The sketchy character of the work exemplifies Beuys’ general approach towards drawing: “A drawing is the first visible form in my work, the first visible form of thought, the changing point from the invisible powers to the visible thing” (Joseph Beuys quoted in: Bernice Rose, ‘The Drawings of Joseph Beuys’, MoMA, No.13, Winter-Spring 1993, p. 17).
Persimmon II and Australian Seeds are examples of Beuys’ strong concern with nature in his late work. A founding member of the Green Party in Germany, Beuys found nature to be much more than a source of formal inspiration. Evocating his famous planting of 7000 oak trees for the Documenta exhibition of the same year, it is especially Australian Seeds that speaks to nature’s implicit promise of social renewal.
Ultimately, this refined and extremely important selection of works is an extraordinary display of Beuys’ revolutionary and influential body of work, which Sotheby’s is proud to offer together for the first time at auction.