Selling Exhibition: 15 November–5 December 2021 • Cologne

T he only revolutionary power is the power of human creativity. The only revolutionary power is the power of art.” (Joseph Beuys cited in: Exh. Cat., Ottawa, National Gallery of Canada, Joseph Beuys: Sculptures, 2015, p. 6.)

Sotheby’s are delighted to offer an exclusive selection of Joseph Beuys works from ain important Private European collection, curating an unparalleled group compromising of sculpture, works on paper, and important editions all available for immediate purchase. Beuys’ centennial provides the opportune moment to rediscover his complex and engaging ouevre. Taking place at the opulent Palais Oppenheim, the selling exhibition offers a poignant reflection on many of the artist’s most fundamental pictorial and humanistic aspirations. The extensive selection of works will be on display from November 16th, 2021 until December 5th, 2021.

Indeed, Beuys is considered one of the most important artists of the 20th century. Throughout his illustrious career, Beuys has sought to expose and express human fallibility and artistic imperfection. To this end, his universal works grapple with humanism, social philosophy, anthropology and politics, and his celebrated creative output has continued to have a profound and far-reaching impact on the course of art history.

Among one of the highlights of the exhibition is Schlitten (Sled) from 1969; arguably one of the artist’s most iconic works. Consisting of a wooden sled with folded felt, grease and a torch secured to the seat, this curious object recalls a survival kit of sorts, in which each element has an intrinsic meaning that refers to the Beuys’ personal history and symbolic lexicon. The work refers to the almost mythical near-death experience of Beuys during the Second World War. The artist had joined the Luftwaffe in 1940 and trained as a Stuka pilot. While flying over the Crimea in 1943, his plane crashed during a snowstorm. The artist recounts that he was the only survivor and was saved by the care of the nomadic Tatar population, who saved him after the crash by covering his body with fat and wrapping him in felt. To this end, there is a myriad of referential content in which the torch represents the sense of orientation, the felt signifies protection and the fat alludes to food, while the sledge refers to the notion of movement and navigation

Another highlight of the exhibition is Difesa della Natura from 1982, which refers to an ecological campaign that Beuys and his dealer, Lucrezia de Domizio undertook in the 1980s with the assistance of his students at the art academy he had founded – the Free International University. The jars of preserved vegetables symbolise the preservation and protection of the earth’s resources, meanwhile, the table presentation alludes to a class room setting and a need to educate the population on the most pressing environmental matters currently threatening our ecological and socio-political climate. Furthermore, a selection of delicate and thought-provoking works on paper are also included in the exhibition; each detail the artist’s linear handwork and quasi-scientific approach to artistic production; serving as a personal diary and providing insight into the artist’s inner psyche.

Simultaneously elusive yet weighty, mysterious yet concrete, works offered in the exhibition each engender the poetry from the most improbable and retrograde of materials, potently encapsulating the enigmatic and shamanistic nature of its creator.

Exhibition Highlights


Sotheby’s Cologne
Palais Oppenheim
Gustav-Heinemann-Ufer 136-138
50968 Köln, Germany

Exhibition Dates/Hours

15 November–5 December
Weekdays 9:00 AM–6:00 PM
Weekends 11:00 AM–2:00 PM
Closed 27 & 28 November


Bastienne Leuthe
Senior Director, Senior Specialist, Head of Contemporary Art, Germany
+49 173 5995871

Heidi Khair
Assistant to the Head of Contemporary Art, Germany / Business Liaison
+49 172 8245862

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