September 12–December 10, 2018
The Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris presents a comprehensive retrospective of the work of Franz West, who died in 2012. Curated by Christine Macel, chief curator at the Pompidou, and Mark Godfrey, senior curator at Tate Modern, London, where it will travel in February 2019, the exhibition spans West’s influential career and draws on major loans from institutions including The Museum of Modern Art in New York, Museum Ludwig in Cologne, and MUMOK, Museum moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, in the artist’s hometown of Vienna.
The nearly two hundred works on view demonstrate the full breadth of West’s oeuvre, beginning with rarely seen drawings from the early 1970s and his first Passstücke (Adaptives)— the sculptures for which he became well known—to his papier-mâché works from the 1980s and Lemurenköpfe (Lemur Heads), made in the 1990s, as well his collages, furniture works, and collaborations with other artists. Several monumental open-air sculptures from the latter part of West’s career will be on view in the Pompidou’s lobby and in front of several other museums and institutions in the Marais district.
Showcasing the striking physical presence and formal qualities of his work, the retrospective also aims to explore the philosophical dimensions of the artist’s practice and its unique social sensibility. West grew up in Vienna in the aftermath of World War II—a period he described as "a very conflicted time"—and saw avant-garde performances by the Viennese Actionists during the 1960s. The aesthetic he developed in his own work engaged high and low cultural references in equal measure and encouraged direct interaction with art as a way to explore the positioning of the body and the status of art in daily life. With works that playfully manipulate everyday materials and imagery in novel ways, he created objects and installations that redefine art as a social experience, calling attention to the way it is presented and how viewers interact with works of art and, in turn, with each other.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue edited by Godfrey and Macel, which also features recollections from David Zwirner about meeting the artist and organizing his first solo show at the gallery in 1993.
Image: Franz West, Rrose/Drama, 2001. Telenor Art Collection. Photo © All rights reserved
February 23–May 26, 2013
In 2013, the Museum moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien (MUMOK) in Vienna presented Franz West: Where Is My Eight? (Wo ist mein Achter?). This was the second major exhibition of the artist’s work at the museum in his native city of Vienna following Franz West: Proforma, a midcareer survey in 1996. Both exhibitions were curated by Eva Badura-Triska.
Where Is My Eight? included some 150 works based on a preliminary selection drawn up by the artist before his death in 2012. The show focused on the Kombi-Werke (Combi-Works), in which West would combine existing works to create new installations; also included were individual pieces drawn from throughout the artist’s career, for example his Passstücke (Adaptives), furniture, sculptures, videos, works on paper, and pieces created in cooperation with other artists. As Faye Hirsch wrote in an extended article for Art in America, "The playfulness and wit that characterized West’s art throughout his career were much in evidence. . . . Walking through the show, one is struck as much by the work’s connection to Brancusi and Giacometti as to the anti-art impulses of Duchamp and Fluxus."
Versions of the exhibition were subsequently presented at the Museum für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt (2013) and the Hepworth Wakefield in England (2014), where West’s work was placed in dialogue with sculptures by the late Barbara Hepworth. "Playfully nestled alongside the elegant, anthropomorphic curves of Barbara Hepworth’s plaster prototypes," Louisa Elderton wrote in a review for Flash Art, "West’s Das Geraune (Murmuring) (1988) was veritably buzzing with energized textural surfaces and peep holes for the viewer’s eyes only."
The exhibition was accompanied by a publication with texts by Eva Badura-Triska, Klaus Goerner, Georg Grooelle, Peter Keicher, and Andreas Reiter-Raabe.
March 12, 2009–June 7, 2009
Organized by The Baltimore Museum of Art, Franz West, To Build a House You Start with the Roof: Work, 1972–2008 surveyed nearly forty years of work by the artist. The exhibition showcased Franz West’s dynamic range of work, from his interactive Passstücke (Adaptives) of the 1970s to large-scale outdoor sculptures begun in the mid-1990s made from aluminum and painted in bright colors. In the catalogue accompanying the show, the curator Darsie Alexander recalls how "an exhibition [of West’s work] at David Zwirner, New York, in the mid-1990s kindled a spark that has ignited into this exhibition."
On the occasion of the exhibition, West produced a new outdoor sculpture, The Ego and the Id (2008). As Peter Schjeldahl wrote in The New Yorker, "West’s recent abstract, painted-aluminum sculptures . . . may be the most energetic and affable art for public spaces since Alexander Calder. . . . A new, colossal piece, created for Baltimore, is West’s strongest yet. The Ego and the Id, in two parts, deploys twisting, soaring loops in various toothsome colors, and sprouts stools for sitting."