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Joseph Beuys redefined the boundaries of art by formulating the motto “Everyone is an artist” in 1968. His aim was not to deal with the rigid forms of painting and sculpture, nor to find his way into the predefined structures of academies and museums. Rather, it was more about directing all creative forces towards life and its changeability. In this agility he recognized the chance for a continuous change of consciousness and the further development of freedom and creativity. Beuys saw artistic works as “tools”. With their help, he wanted to set ideas in motion that would affect society as a whole and invite all members to participate responsibly in this creative process. He wanted exhibitions to function as “workshops” for the productive conversion of initially undirected energies, Museums not as halls of fame, but as “permanent conferences” in which everyone is invited to participate critically. He attributes to the artist – and thus to every person – the ability to creatively grow beyond existing conditions, to connect with their archaic past as well as with a visionary future. He sees culture as the source of inspiration for this creative change. The forces formulated there can ultimately, according to Beuys, dynamize the economy and the legal system and bring about the improvement of one’s own existence as well as of one’s entire existence, connecting with one’s archaic past as well as with a visionary future. Perpetual motion.

For this exhibition, over 20 pieces from the years 1949 to 1985 were selected from the private collections of gallery owners Thaddaeus Ropac, Bernd and Verena Klüser as well as journalist Linde Rohr-Bongard and the Viehof Collection, formerly the Speck Collection, each with its own profound history and connection to Joseph Beuys and his work. They are all equally close to Tony Cragg, who, on the occasion of Beuys’ 100th birthday, had the desire to realize an exhibition of his works in a pavilion in the Waldfrieden sculpture park. Cragg himself first met Beuys in 1972 at the Whitechapel Gallery in London. Cragg, then 23 years old, was impressed by Beuys’ charismatic lecture, his encyclopedic knowledge, his brilliant associative ability and the social demands of his concept of art. The exhibits he has now selected for Wuppertal from Beuys’s companions connect with each other dialogically to become, in the Beuysian sense, a battery for storing energy, a reservoir of potential and ideas.

“Joseph Beuys. Perpetual Motion” is an occasion for a new look and discussion of the work of Joseph Beuys, who as an artist and political activist, as a hypersensitive person and a keenly rational thinker, campaigned for the realization of a utopia. It will be accompanied by a series of lectures that will highlight the comprehensive theory of the artist, who posited that “every grip must be right” for every moment of artistic activity.<br/><br/> Tony Cragg’s Skulpturenpark Waldfrieden is an ideal venue to contemplate important aspects of Joseph Beuys’ artistic work. The setting of Wuppertal itself brings to mind memories of an influential circle of characters who began supporting Beuys back in the 1950s. Stella Baum, for instance, remained in close contact with Beuys from the time of his first solo exhibition at the Von der Heydt Museum in 1953, and her writings on the artist insightfully describe the intuitive approach that was so central to his creative process. Rolf and Annelise Jährling, whose Wuppertal Galerie Parnass hosted Nam June Paik’s first solo exhibition in 1963, also deserve mention. Beuys would later describe the early Fluxus event as a “historic act.” He, too, took part in the happening, and in destroying a well-tuned piano, confronted the audience with the sheer inexhaustible potential of expression contained within a given material — he generally used his work to probe the breadth of formal transformation; from germinating growth to catastrophic destruction. Several aspects of the topic of anthroposophy will also be highlighted in the exhibition: Much as Wassily Kandinsky or Piet Mondrian before him, Joseph Beuys always made a point of citing Rudolf Steiner as a source of inspiration. One of the things that impressed him about Steiner was the way he linked a positivist definition of science with the idea of the universe as a complex whole. Tony Cragg, on the other hand, first learned of Rudolf Steiner in 1972, in London — through Beuys. Thus, the exhibition is a welcome opportunity to look at both artists’ relationship with the topic, especially considering the great effort Cragg put into carefully restoring the villa that is home to the Cragg Foundation — originally built for paint manufacturer Dr. Kurt Herberts, architect Franz Krause’s organic design was inspired by anthroposophic ideas.

Skulpturenpark Waldfrieden

Hirschstraße 12

42285 Wuppertal, Germany


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