Australia’s largest public collection of the work of Joseph Beuys, one of the late 20th century’s most influential artists, has gone on show at the University of Sydney’s Art Gallery.
German-born Beuys (1921-1986) produced works from a range of disciplines including sculpture, performance art, installations and graphic art. Hugely influential on subsequent artists, his own greatest influences include his involvement in the German army during World War II, Rudolf Steiner’s work and mythology.
Joseph Beuys and the ‘Energy Plan’ is a free show of works from the University of Sydney’s Power Collection. His Filzanzug (Felt Suit) 1970 is the centrepiece of the exhibition and refers to Beuys’ memories of the war.
“A volunteer for the Luftwaffe, Beuys was shot down over the Crimea in 1944 and it’s claimed the Tartars who rescued him wrapped him in felt, which became a common motif in his work,” says exhibition guest curator and University of Sydney PhD candidate Donna West Brett.
“For Beuys, wrapping himself in felt and wearing the felt suit are about healing.”
Like much of Beuys’ work in the exhibition Felt Suit is a multiple, one of many identical pieces produced, with other examples in the permanent collections of the Tate Gallery and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Multiples gained popularity in the late 20th century as a means of rejecting the exclusivity of art. Often Beuys’ multiples relate to his performance work: 1st Class Grilled Fish Bones came from a performance where Beuys fried fish.
The exhibition title refers to the artist’s foray across the Atlantic in 1974. ‘Energy Plan for the Western Man’ was a hugely successful lecture tour which introduced Beuys to the American public.
Joseph Beuys and the ‘Energy Plan’ also explores Beuys’ collaboration with German photographer and art critic Joseph Krüger. Krüger photographed Beuys’ work between 1972 and 1979, one of the few people to comprehensively document his art. Krüger’s friendship and association with Elwyn Lynn, former curator of the Power Collection, led to the inclusion of these photographs in the collection, as well as a substantial body of Beuys’ work.
Joseph Beuys and the ‘Energy Plan’ is being held to mark the 50th anniversary of the Power Collection, from the visionary bequest left by the artist JW Power.
Where: University Art Gallery, War Memorial Arch, northern end of the Quadrangle, Camperdown Campus. See map
When: Now until 29 June
Open Monday to Friday, 10am to 4.30pm, and the first Saturday of each month from 12 to 4pm. Closed public holidays.
For more information, call the University Art Gallery on 02 9351 6883.