The Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris will present the first posthumous retrospective of the work of Franz West. Curated by Christine Macel, Chief Curator at the Centre Georges Pompidou and Mark Godfrey, Senior Curator at Tate Modern, the exhibition will span West's influential career and draws on loans of major works from institutions including the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Ludwig Museum in Cologne. On view will be works dating from the 1970s onwards, including early drawings and works on paper that have rarely been presented publicly, the papier mâché sculptures of the 1980s, large-scale installations created in the 1990s, and the open-air sculptures of the 2000s. The exhibition will open in September 2018.
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.
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."
Telefonat (Phone Call)
Telefonat (Phone Call), 1997
Two artist tables and four sculptures; metal, wood, papier-mâché, gauze, plaster, and paint
Overall: 68 1/2 × 33 1/2 × 61 1/2 inches (174 × 85.1 × 156.2 cm)
Overall dimensions vary with installation
Emerging in the early 1970s, Austrian-born artist Franz West (1947-2012) developed a unique aesthetic that equally engaged high and low reference points and often privileged social interaction as an intrinsic component of his work. While he was known primarily as a sculptor, his body of work incorporated drawing, collage, video, and installation, using papier-mâché, furniture, cardboard, plaster, found imagery, and other diverse materials. By playfully manipulating everyday materials and imagery in novel ways, he created objects that serve to redefine art as a social experience, calling attention to the way in which art is presented to the public, and how viewers interact with works of art and with each other.
While interactive work remained characteristic of his practice, West became increasingly interested in autonomous sculpture in the 1990s, creating a series of abstract, painted papier-mâché and plaster forms that rest on unusual supports, humorously playing with the notion of the sculptural pedestal. As described by Darsie Alexander, "there is a distinct look to West's work that defies quick visual digestion. Fundamentally sculptural in construction, it veers frequently towards the biomorphic and the prosthetic, mines the intellectualism of Freud and Wittgenstein, and possesses an awkward beauty that speaks with equal fluency to the aesthetics of painterly abstraction and trash art." 1 Sculptures from this period are often supported by found objects that include rolls of tape and paint cans, among other common materials, or by pedestals that could easily also serve as cupboards or liquor cabinets (West leaves their use to the discretion of the owner).
The present work consists of two sets of brightly colored sculptural forms that resemble an abstracted telephone receiver and a cradle, placed on abutting studio tables as if in dialogue with each other. As the artist explained, "Artists are known to make 'telephone drawings' (they happen during telephone calls). The 'telephone sculptures,' on the other hand are left the way they are if one gets interrupted by a telephone call during their production. I would have labored on them further, but during the telephone call I look at them while 'my rational thinking' is sucked away through the telephone receiver. That way I often have a similarly strange impression as if I see sculptures again after many years; meaning: I ask myself how I made it just this way. I owe this unusual esthetic reception during the process of production, which otherwise would probably become 'the usual' due to the constraints of rationalization, to the installation of a telephone in my studio." 2
1 Darsie Alexander, "Franz West: What To Do?" in Alexander, ed., Franz West, To Build a House You Start With the Roof: Work 1972-2008. Exh. cat. (Baltimore: The Baltimore Museum of Art, 2008), p. 49.
2 Statement by the artist for didactic materials for The Carnegie International, 1995.
© Franz West
Collection of Lin Lougheed, loaned to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Selbiges (The Thing Itself)