Lot 51
  • 51

FRANZ WEST | Paukenschlag

250,000 - 350,000 GBP
352,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Franz West
  • Paukenschlag
  • acrylic, gauze, papier-mâché and iron on artist's plinth


Meyer Kainer Gallery, Vienna
Private Collection, New York
Sotheby’s, New York, 18 November 2016, Lot 428 (consigned from the above)
Acquired from the above by the present owner


Eisenstadt, Esterházy Palace, Haydn Explosive - A European Career at the Court of Esterhazy, September 2009 - November 2010


Herbert Lachmayer, Staging Knowledge, Munich 2013, p. 210, illustrated in colour (in installation at Haydn Explosive - A European Career at the Court of Esterhazy, Esterházy Palace, Eisenstadt, 2009-10)

Catalogue Note

The colourful, bulbous shapes of Franz West’s Paukenschlag hum with a youthful spirit and invite the viewer to interact with the work on an intimate level. Born and educated in Vienna, West was predisposed to the Viennese-Actionists of the 1960s, who pushed the boundaries of painting and sculpture by redefining the human body as a medium, often in a grotesque and esoteric manner. Inspired by these artists, West pursued a concomitant interconnectivity between viewer and art; however, he sought to create art which was accessible. West has said of his own work, “As a body, you stand or walk around the sculpture. It is almost equivalent to your own corporeality, to taking up space in one’s own three-dimensionality in a defined art space. As far as sculpture is concerned, the viewer is more or less obliged to engage in movement” (Franz West cited in: Robert Fleck, Bice Curiger and Neal Benezra, Franz West, London 1999, pp. 8-9). West’s exploration of the relationship between the sculptural form and the human form has defined much of his celebrated career. Starting in the 1980s with his Adaptives, West created art that required an interactive viewer. These white papier-mâché forms were meant to be worn, touched, or carried – only this level of tactile engagement could activate the forms as artworks. Executed in 2009 as West was nearing the end of his life, Paukenschlag recalls the Adaptives from the beginning of his career and similarly entreats the viewer to explore its visceral and rugged surface.

In addition to its visual interest, Paukenschlag engages the viewer intellectually by referencing Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 94 (Symphony mit dem Paukenschlag). This Symphony is especially famous for the sudden fortissimo chord which interrupts the otherwise soothing piano theme in the second movement. The playfulness of Haydn’s composition and its challenge to established tradition mirror West’s own iconoclasm, whereby his intentionally inscrutable, contorted forms appear to mock the conservative art world.

The playful composition and philosophical sensibility of Paukenschlag exemplifies the duality of West’s work. The absurdity within this sculpture wrestles with and reimagines the nature of art, as he pokes fun at tradition yet understands its past. This work is inherently unpretentious and exists on a level which the viewer can understand and appreciate. In this way with Paukenschlag, Franz West manages to both satisfy a youthful nostalgia and an intellectual curiosity by allowing his art to exist on the same plane as the viewer.