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Joseph Beuys

Joseph Beuys
Source: dpa

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Fat & felt & art

Party mood in the Schloss Morsbroich museum. On 15 February 1976 the staff want to celebrate and look for something suitable in which to keep the beer cool. "Let's use this greasy old bath tub here. It'll do fine once we've washed it out." No sooner said than done. There goes a work of art! And its creator, Joseph Beuys, is not amused!

Joseph Beuys (born 12 May 1921, died 23 January 1986)

His "Bath Tub", in which the artist has deposited fat, is not a one-off idea but a theme that recurs in many of his works. He creates "fat corners", "fat chairs" and many other pieces which feature hard fat.

His other favourite material is felt. Indeed, fat and felt have also played a central role in his life. Beuys was a fighter pilot during World War Two. His plane crashed over the Soviet Union, where Tatars found the badly injured Joseph Beuys, rubbed him all over with tallow to protect him from the bitter cold and wrapped him in felt.

Another consequence of the crash is the presence of a silver plate in his skull, which left him particularly sensitive to the cold, forcing him to wear a hat. This becomes another of his trademarks.

After the war, Beuys studies sculpture and painting at the bulletAcademy of Art in Düsseldorf, taking a professorship in 1961.

In October 1972 he is sacked by the then science minister Johannes Rau for joining in a occupation of the college secretariat staged by students whose applications were turned down. The ensuing legal battle confirms the legality of his dismissal, but Beuys is allowed to keep his title of Professor and continues to work in his studio at the Academy.

Dirk Bitzer

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