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Joseph Beuys

(12 May 1921 - 23 January 1986)


Joseph Beuys was one of the most important artists of the twentieth century. He was a sculptor, draughtsman, performance artist, and most of all a thinker, not just within the world of art but across the whole spectrum of politics and culture. He broke down boundaries in all his work and questioned all the prevailing views of art, and many social norms.


In January 1970 Richard Demarco toured West Germany and visited its arts centres. He encourtered Joseph Beuys at the Documenta exhibition in Kassel and this led to the artist's first shows in the English-speaking world. In August-September 1970 Demarco presented the groundbreaking Strategy: Get Arts at Edinburgh College of Art. Strategy : Get Arts comprised works in various media by 35 artists associated with Dusseldorf at the time, among them Joseph Beuys. This had an important impact, not only because it brought Joseph Beuys to the UK for the first time but because much of the work on display challenged both exhibition conventions and art-form boundaries and media. 

Beuys' contribution to Strategy : Get Arts consisted of a four-hour long collaborative performance (with Henning Christiansen) entitled Celtic (Kinloch Rannoch) Scottish Symphony. This was performed each day for five consecutive days. He also exhibited Das Rudel (The Pack) in Edinburgh, and photo documentation of his 'actions', Arena. 


Beuys' final visit to Edinburgh took place during  the summer of 1981 when he returned to make a work from the doors of the soon to be demolished Forresthill Poorhouse. The resultant work, New Beginnings are in the Offing (sometimes referred to as The Poorhouse Doors) was shown that year at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and also in the exhibition The Avant-Garde in Europe 1955-70: the Collection of the Staedtishes Museum, Moenchengladbach.

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