1921 - 1986 · Germany
A conceptual and performance artist associated briefly with the Fluxus movement, Joseph Beuys found his strongest creative energy when exploring the bounds between the realities of life and the fantasies of art.
Centering his practice around the German concept of gesamkunstwerk, or the entirety of the artwork, Beuys participated directly in his performance to reflect the fact that he embodied the political, social, or humanistic ideals on which the piece itself was based. He often tackled diverse yet significant topics and never shied away from the controversial. As a result, his works revealed to the international art world the potential of performance art as a field for exploration.
Born in Germany in 1921, Beuys’ youth was consumed by the wartime years. After serving in World War II and nearly dying in a plane crash in 1943, Beuys found his way back to art through studies at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. Invigorated by the rising trends in art, Beuys teamed up with the performance artists of Fluxus for a brief period in the 1960s but then moved on as he followed his own creative path. Examples of his work are showcased today in some of the world’s best collections, including New York’s Museum of Modern Art, London’s Tate Gallery, and Berlin’s Hamburger Banhof.