Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction


Joseph Beuys
1921 - 1986

signed and numbered 2/4 on the underside of each ball

bronze and wire cables

98.5 by 58 by 170cm.; 38¾ by 22⅞ by 67in.
Executed 1958-1985, this work is number 2 from an edition of 4.
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Anthony d'Offay, London (acquired from the artist)
The Pace Gallery, New York
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner



London, Anthony d'Offay Gallery, About Sculpture, 1987, n.p., illustrated in colour
New York, Pace Gallery, Joseph Beuys: Make the Secrets Productive, 2010, p. 25, illustrated in colour
Portland, Art Museum, Joseph Beuys, 2012


Heiner Bastian, Joseph Beuys: Blitzschlag mit Lichtschein auf Hirsch, Bern 1986, n.p., two illustrations of another example in colour in installation
Exhibition Catalogue, Duisberg, Wilhelm-Lehmbruck-Museum, Joseph Beuys im Wilhelm-Lehmbruck-Museum, 1987, n.p., illustration of another example
Exhibition Catalogue, Berlin, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Joseph Beuys: Skulpturen und Objekte, 1988, p. 232, no. 87, illustration of another example
Exhibition Catalogue, Brussels, Galerie Isy Brachot; Paris, Galerie Isy Brachot, Joseph Beuys, 1989-90, p. 165, illustration of another example in colour
Exhibition Catalogue, Krefeld, Kaiser Wilhelm Museum, Transit - Joseph Beuys: Plastische Arbeiten und Zeichnungen, 1991-2, p. 115, no. 20, illustration of another example
Exhibition Catalogue, Dusseldorf, Kunstammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Joseph Beuys: Natur, Materie, Form, 1991-2, no. 114, illustration of another example in colour
Exhibition Catalogue, Zurich, Kunsthaus; Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou, Musée Nationale d'Art Moderne, Joseph Beuys, 1993-4, p. 210, illustration of another example (Paris); p. 37, no. 5, illustration of another example (Zurich)
Lothar Schirmer, Ed., The Essential Joseph Beuys, London 1996, no. 144, illustration of another example in installation and no. 145, illustration of another example in colour in installation
Exhibition Catalogue, Bologna, Galleria d'Arte Moderna, Ombra della Ragione: L'idea del Sacro nell'identità European el XX secolo, 2000, p. 87, illustration of another example in colour

Catalogue Note

For Joseph Beuys art is action and life force, a political act and a mutable demonstration that nonetheless can embody and inhabit a sculptural object. Belonging to the immediate generation of artists working in the aftermath of World War II, Beuys forged a pioneering and ambitious artistic philosophy in tune with a palpable urge to reinvent, regenerate, and to instigate social evolution and cultural revolution. Belonging to the select company of sculptural assemblages employed during countless staged performances, happenings the artist called Aktionen, Tisch Mit Aggregat (Table with Accumulator) dated from 1958-1985, spans the very breadth of Beuys' wholly inimitable, somewhat shamanistic, and now legendary career. With another edition jointly belonging to the Tate and National Galleries of Scotland presently on show as part of the Artist's Rooms programme at Tate Modern, Tisch Mit Aggregat is a pivotal and recurrent sculpture that metaphorically summates Beuys' will to channel and harness life's elemental force.

Exuding the handled, bitten, eroded and solemn grandeur familiar to the entirety of Beuys' sculptural production, Tisch Mit Aggregat encapsulates the artist's elemental and transformative concept of art. From humble beginnings Beuys looks to convert inchoate matter into dynamic form through the movement (Beuys' crucial concept of Bewegung) and actions of the artist: "The principle of resurrection, transforming old structure, which dies or stagnates, into a vibrant, life-enhancing and soul- and spirit- promoting form. This is the expanded concept of art" (the artist cited in: Exhibition Catalogue, The Menil Collection, Houston, Jospeh Beuys: Actions, Vitrines, Environments, 2005, p. 25). Herein, Tisch Mit Aggregat provides an intriguing metaphor: serving to capture, preserve and recycle life energy, a large battery appended to two nodes resting on the floor sits on the solemn architecture of a solid, heavy-looking wooden table. Connected via twisted lengths of exposed metal cable, the cuboid accumulator appears to store energy conducted from the earth by a pair of coarsely moulded brass spheres. Akin to the prehistoric stone monuments of Stone Henge, Beuys invokes a paganistic relationship between materials and the environment. This work acts a perfect allegory for Beuys' encompassing artistic project: to harness and transmit creative and spiritual energy on a grand societal stage. Recalling prehistorical beliefs in the divine power of nature, Beuys takes on the messianic role of a spiritual healer.

Entrenched in the artist's own self-cultivated myth, Beuys fostered an artistic identity from his own somewhat fabricated revelatory war-time legend. A Luftwaffe pilot during the war, Beuys was shot down over the Crimea; he attributed his survival to a band of Tartars who, using felt and fat, nursed his wounds and restored the artist's health regardless of past transgressions. Appropriating the materials of his recuperation and invoking a marked sense of the paganistic, Beuys looked to regenerate culture in the wake of global evisceration: "I made a decision that was almost theoretical - science didn't look to me as if it would have given me the chance to create something stimulating, something that would lead to a change. I had this historical aim in sight, the fact that something had to be radically transformed, and I knew that art would be the right experimental field to do it in. This decision has to be turned out to be the right one for me" (the artist cited in: Exhibition Catalogue, New York, Pacewildenstein, Joseph Beuys Make the Secrets Productive, 2010, p. 9). In approaching this regenerative project, Beuys looked away from the insular confines of Modern art to extend its practice into a holistic and engaged social phenomenon: "I want to have a thing that can live, based on its own inner laws. That's my starting point and that's not something that limited only to art" (the artist cited in: Ibid., p. 8). Embodying this sensibility within a dialectic of forms that at once implores elemental forces of nature, as much as the stark aesthetic conjures a wartime evocation of base explosives, Tisch Mit Aggregat engenders poetry from the most improbable and retrograde of materials.

Contemporary Art Evening Auction