- Date of Birth: May 12, 1921
- Birthplace: Krefeld, North Rhine-Westphalia
- Day of Death: January 23, 1986
- Nationality: German, German Art
- Studies: Staatliche Kunstakademie Dusseldorf
- Similar artists: Jörg Immendorff, Georg Baselitz, Sigmar Polke, Andy Warhol, Gerhard Richter, Nam June Paik, Joseph Kosuth
- Teacher: Ewald Mataré
- Style: fluxus, happening
Childhood and military duty
Joseph Beuys was born on May 12, 1921 in Krefeld. He was the son of the director of a company Joseph Jacob and his wife Johanna Maria Beuys. Shortly after his birth, the family moved to Kleve, where Beuys spent his childhood and youth. There he went to grade school and later to the humanistic grammar school.
Beuys had several differences with his parents because he did not strictly follow the Roman Catholic education. The young Beuys had his first experience with art, with sculptures by Wilhelm Lehmbrück. Because of these experiences, he wanted to be a sculptor.
In 1940 he finished high school with a high school diploma and signed up voluntarily in the same year for military service. First, he was a fighter pilot on the Eastern Front, then a paratrooper on the Western Front, and later he was promoted to sergeant. Beuys obligated for 12 years as a professional soldier. In March 1944 there was a plane crash, in which Beuys suffered minor injuries. According to him, there were serious injuries and the story became a myth. He said that he was cared for after the crash with animal fat and warm felt. This story explained the frequent use of the materials felt and fat. The felt should stand for protection and warmth and the fat for life. After the surrender of the German Armed Forces, Beuys got into war captivity from May 18, 1945 until August 5, 1945. After this time, he painted and sculpted his first works.
In 1947, Joseph Beuys was accepted at Staatliche Kunstakademie in Dusseldorf. He began his studies in the sculptor-class of Josef Enseling, but later he changed to the class of professor Ewald Mataré. During his studies Beuys could assist his teacher with numerous works. The philosopher Rudolf Steiner marked a central topic of discussion in the class of Mataré. As founder of anthroposophy, he also inspired Beuys and was with his scripture Kernpunkte der sozialen Frage really important for Beuys later thoughts about the „expanded concept of art“ (Erweiterter Kunstbegriff) and „Social Sculpture“ (Soziale Plastik). In 1952 Beuys completed his studies as a master student.
Subsequent life and death
In 1958 Beuys met the art teacher Eva-Maria Wurmbach and one year later they married. 1961 the first son Boien Wenzel was born. Three years later daughter Jessyka followed.
Beuys lived and worked until his death in Kleve and Dusseldorf. He died on January 23, 1986 of heart failure at his studio in Dusseldorf.
Beuys as teacher
In the late 1950s Joseph Beuys strove for a professorship at Staatliche Kunstakademie Dusseldorf. However he started his career in 1961 and became a professor for „Monumental Sculpture“. Beuys was teacher of artists like Jörg Immendorff, Imi Knoebel, Anselm Kiefer and Inge Mahn. He quickly attracted attention because of his special campaigns and his different teaching methods, which had nothing in common with monumental sculpture. Beuys spent a lot of time at the Staatliche Kunstakademie in Dusseldorf and was of the opinion that anyone who wants to study art should do it without hindrance as regards proficiency tests and portfolios. So it happened that Beuys proposed a concept for an international free school for creativity and interdisciplinary research at the Kunstakademie. However, without success. In 1973 Beuys was expelled from the Kunstakademie, because he occupied with rejected students, against the norm, the Registrar's Office to force their admissions. In addition, his professorship was denied, but later he received it back. In 1974 Beuys got a visiting professorship at Hochschule für Bildende Künste Hamburg. In 1978, Beuys received another offer from the Hochschule für angewandte Kunst in Vienna, but he rejected it.
After several disputes with the Staatliche Kunstakademie Beuys was allowed to keep his studio in room 3, where he founded the Free University International (FIU) in 1980.
During his lifetime Joseph Beuys was very engaged in politics. In the late 1960s, he founded the Deutsche Studentenpartei (DSP). At documenta 5 in 1972, Joseph Beuys was represented by the Information Office of his Organization for Direct Democracy through Referendum for the duration of the whole documenta (100 days). There he discussed with the visitors the idea of direct democracy through referendum and their possibilities of realization. For Beuys the German system was „criminal“, which was the reason for his political interest. Therefore in the 1980s, he became one of the founders of the Party Die Grünen. In 1980 he ran as a candidate for the European elections, and was the top candidate in the German general elections.
The „Erweiterte Kunstbegriff“
Through the theory of the „expanded concept of art“ (Erweiterter Kunstbegriff) Beuys tried to extend the understanding of art. Beuys shared the conviction that every human being is an artist and therefore anyone can express himself artistically. With the term "expanded concept of art" the concept of "social sculpture" came along. This should be the definition of Beuys notion that every human being can change the society and the community through artistic action.
- 2014 Ich bin ein Sender. Multiples von Joseph Beuys - Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich
- 2011 8 Tage in Japan und die Utopie EURASIA - Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin
- 2010 Parallelprozesse - Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfahlen, Dusseldorf
- 2009 Joseph Beuys. Schamane - Kunsthalle Krems
- 2009 BEUYS. Die Revolution sind wir - Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin
- 2009 8 days - Contemporary Art Center, Art Tower Mito, Tokyo
- 2008 Imagination, Inspiration, Intuition - National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
- 2007 Metthew Barney und Joseph Beuys - Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin
- 2006 Zeichnungen - Staatliche Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe
- 2005 Rodin Beuys - Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt am Main
- 2004 Plakate - Versicherungskammer Bayern, Munich
- 2003 Joseph Beuys in Basel - Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Basel
- 2001 Wer nicht denken will fliegt raus - Heck-Art-Galerie, Chemnitz
- 2000 Joseph Beuys und die Straßenbahnhaltestelle - Museum Kurhaus Kleve
- 1999 Joseph Beuys. Drawings - Dia Center for the Arts, New York
- 1999 Joseph Beuys Editionen. Sammlung Reinhardt Schlegel - Hamburger Bahnhof Berlin
- 1998 Postkarten - Museum für Post und Kommunikation, Berlin
- 1997 Joseph Beuys - Hill Art Center, Seoul
- 1996 Mit dummen Fragen fängt jede Revolution an - Heidelberger Kunstverein
- 1994 Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia
- 1994 Arena von Joseph Beuys - Kunsthalle Hamburg
- 1991 Natur, Materie, Form - Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfahlen, Dusseldorf
- 1989 Joseph Beuys. Fond Sculptures - Dia Art Foundation, New York
- 1988 Beuys vor Beuys - Akademie der Künste, Berlin
- 1986 Blitzschlag mit Lichtschein auf Hirsch - Galerie Zwirner, Cologne
- 1984 Musée Cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne
- 1983 Bergkönig - Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt a.M.
- 1981 Arbeiten aus Münchner Sammlungen - Lenbachhaus, Munich
- 1980 Stripes from the House of the Shaman - Anthony d’Offay Gallery, London
- 1979 Zeichnungen - Neue Nationalgalerie
- 1978 Beuys in Italia - Museo Diego Aragona Pignatelli Cortes, Naples
- 1977 The Secret Block - Kunstmuseum Basel
- 1975 Multiples, Bücher und Kataloge aus der Sammlung Speck - Kunstverein Kassel
- 1975 Joseph Beuys - Kestner Gesellschaft, Hanover
- 1974 Joseph Beuys. The Secret Block - Museum of Modern Art, Oxford
- 1973 Zeichnungen - Galerie Schmela, Dusseldorf
- 1971 Joseph Beuys. Aktionen - Moderna Museet, Stockholm
- 1968 Joseph Beuys. Sammlung Karl Ströher - Städtische Kunsthalle, Dusseldorf
- 1968 Beuys Objecten Tekeningen Schilderijen - Stedelijk van Abbemuseum, Eindoven
- 1967 Fettraum - Galerie Franz Dahlem, Darmstadt
- 1985 Joseph Beuys. Ölfarben 1949-1967 - Kunsthaus Zürich
- 1965 Joseph Beuys... irgendein Strang... - Galerie Schmela, Dusseldorf
- 1963 Joseph Beuys Fluxus - Haus van der Grinten, Kranenburg
- 1961 Zeichnungen, Aquarelle, Ölbilder - Museum Haus Koekkoek, Kleve
- 1953 Plastik.Grafik - Haus van der Grinten, Kranenburg
- 2015 Kunst für Alle. Multiples, Grafiken, Aktionen aus der Sammlung Staeck - Akademie der Künste, Berlin
- 2014 Beuys Brock Vostell - ZKM Museum für Neue Kunst, Karlsruhe
- 2010 Art of Two Germans - Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin
- 2009 SECHZIG JAHRE. SECHZIG WERKE - Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin
- 2007 Mythos. Joseph Beuys, Matthew Barney, Douglas Gordon, Cy Twombly - Kunsthaus Bregenz
- 2001 Biennale di Venezia 49., Venice
- 1997 Künstler aus Deutschland - Czech Museum of Fine Arts, Prague
- 1989 Bienal de Sao Paulo 20., Sao Paulo
- 1988 Zeitlos - Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin
- 1987 documenta 8, Kassel
- 1986 Joseph Beuys, Enzo Cucchi, Anselm Kiefer, Jannis Kounellis - Kunsthalle Basel
- 1986 Beuys zu Ehren - Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich
- 1982 Zeitgeist - Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin
- 1982 documenta 7, Kassel
- 1981 Art Allemagne Aujourd’hui - Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville, Paris
- 1980 Biennale di Venezia, 39., Venice
- 1979 Bienal de Sao Paulo 15., Sao Paulo
- 1977 documenta 6, Kassel
- 1976 Tram Stop I - Biennale di Venezia 37., Venice
- 1972 documenta 5, Kassel
- 1968 documenta 4, Kassel
- 1969 When Attitudes Become Form - Kunsthalle Bern; Institute of Contemporary Arts, London
- 1964 documenta 3, Kassel
- 1947 Junge Ernte - Kunsthalle, Dusseldorf
- 1986 Wilhelm-Lehmbruck-Preis der Stadt Duisburg
- 1984 Honorary citizen Bolognano
- 1979 Kaiserring der Stadt Goslar
- 1978 Thorn-Pikker-Ehrenplakette der Stadt Krefeld
- 1976 Lichtwark-Preis der Freien und Hansestadt Hamburg
- Die Revolution sind wir, Claudia Henne/Renate Lieberenz, Germany 2008, ’15.
- Ich denke mit dem Knie. Themenabend Joseph Beuys, Andrea Schurian, Austria 2001, ’135.
- Joseph Beuys: Jeder Mensch ist ein Künstler, Werner Krüger, Germany 1979, ’54
- Beuys. Die Revolution sind wir, exhibition catalogue, Hamburger Bahnhof Berlin, Göttingen 2008.
- Beuysnobiscum, published by Harald Szeemann, Dresden 1997.
- KUNST = KAPITAL. Achberger Vorträge, Joseph Beuys, Wangen 1992.
- Beuys zu Christus – Eine Position im Gespräch, Friedhelm Mennekes, Stuttgart 1989.
- Beuys in Amerika, published by Klaus Staeck/Gerhard Steidl, Heidelberg 1987.
- Ohne die Rose tun wir’s nicht. Für Joseph Beuys, published by Klaus Staeck, Heidelberg 1986
- Beuys zu Ehren, exhibition catalogue, Munich 1986.
- Joseph Beuys, Götz Adriani/Winfried Konnertz/Karin Thomas, Cologne 1973.
- Joseph Beuys: Reden über das eigene Land, Munich 1985.
- Joseph Beuys: Das Modell der Freien Internationalen Bibliothek, Achberg 1977.
- Joseph Beuys: 1 a gebratene Fischgräte, Berlin 1972.
- Joseph Beuys: Aktuelle Kunst Hohe Straße Köln, Informationen zu einer Straßenaktion, Cologne 1971
- Buenos Aires – Museo de Arte Moderno
- Roskilde – Museet for Samtidskunst
- Berlin – Hamburger Bahnhof
- Dortmund – Museum Ostwall
- Duisburg – Lehmbruck Museum
- Dusseldorf – Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen
- Essen – Folkwang Museum
- Frankfurt a. M. – Museum für Moderne Kunst
- Kiel – Kunsthalle zu Kiel
- Munich – Museum Brandhorst
- Münster – LWL Museum für Kunst und Kultur
- Stuttgart – Staatsgalerie
- London – Tate Modern
- Vaduz – Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein
- Vienna – Stiftung Ludwig
- Zurich – Kunsthaus Zurich