A comprehensive retrospective of the work of Franz West, who died in 2012, travels to Tate Modern from the Centre Georges Pompidou, where its debut presentation ran from September 12–December 10, 2018. Curated by Christine Macel, chief curator at the Pompidou, and Mark Godfrey, senior curator at Tate Modern, 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 installation at Tate Modern has been designed in collaboration with artist Sarah Lucas in a nod to the creative relationship between the two artists, who worked together on a number of occasions during West's lifetime.
The 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 were on view in the Pompidou’s lobby and in front of several other museums and institutions in the Marais district during the Paris presentation of the show.
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 is 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.
On view through April 5, 2019 at David Zwirner in London, Franz West is an exhibition of the artist's sculptures and works on paper from 1972 to 2004.
Images: Installation view, Franz West, Tate Modern, London, 2019. Photos by Luke Walker