Joseph Beuys

Born 12 May 1921 . Died 23 January 1986.
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Joseph Beuys Biography

Beuys has been an artist, teacher and theorist highly influential in international contemporary art in the latter half of the 20th century. He is a founder of the art movement known as Fluxus, and a practitioner and exemplar of happenings, and performance art. His work is grounded in concepts of humanism, social philosophy, and anthroposophy; it culminates in his "extended definition of art" and the idea of social sculpture as a gesamtkunstwerk (synthesis of the arts) for which he claimed a creative, participatory role in shaping society and politics.

He adopted media and techniques including paint, sculpture, graphic art, and installation.

From an early age, Beuys displayed an interest in the natural sciences and had considered a career in medical studies. In 1941, Beuys volunteered for the Luftwaffe and in March 1944, Beuys's plane crashed on the Crimean Front close to Znamianka.

From this incident, Beuys fashioned the myth that he was rescued from the crash by nomadic Tatar tribesmen, who had wrapped his broken body in animal fat and felt and nursed him back to health.

He devoted to arts once back home in Kleve. The anthroposophic philosophy of Rudolf Steiner became an increasingly important basis for Beuys' reasoning. In 1961, Beuys was appointed professor of 'monumental sculpture' at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. Beuys did not impose his artistic style or techniques on his students; in fact, he kept much of his work and exhibitions hidden from the classroom because he wanted his students to explore their own interests, ideas, and talents. His non-traditional and anti-establishment pedagogical practice and philosophy made him the focus of much controversy

In 1962 Beuys befriended his Düsseldorf colleague Nam June Paik, a member of the Fluxus movement, an international group of artists who championed a radical erosion of the boundaries of art, bringing aspects of creative practice outside of the institution and into the everyday.

In 1969, he was included in Harald Szeemann's groundbreaking exhibition When Attitudes Become Form at the Kunsthalle Bern.

In his various and long career he worked also with Andy Warhol in 1985. Beuys, as he often explained in his interviews, saw and used his performative art as shamanistic and psychoanalytic techniques to both educate and heal the general public.

Beuys became a pacifist, was a vocal opponent of nuclear weapons and campaigned strenuously for environmental causes nevertheless Beuys's charisma and eclecticism have polarised his audience.

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