From abstract and interactive sculpture to furniture and collage, Franz West’s oeuvre possesses a character that is at once lighthearted and deeply philosophical. Belonging to a generation of artists exposed to the Actionist and Performance Art of the 1960s and 70s, West instinctively rejected the idea of a passive relationship between artwork and viewer. Opposed to the existential intensity requisite to his performative forebears (such as Actionism), he produced work that was vigorous and imposing yet unbounded and buoyant. In the seventies, he began creating compact, portable, mixed media sculptures called “Adaptives” (“Passstücke”). These “ergonomically inclined” objects were actualized as artworks only when touched, held, worn, carried, or otherwise physically or cognitively engaged. Transposing the concepts engendered by these formative works, he explored sculpture increasingly through the framework of the ongoing dialogue between viewers and objects, while probing the internal aesthetic relations between sculpture and painting. Manipulating everyday materials and imagery in order to examine art’s relation to social experience, West revolutionized the interplay of concealment and exposure, action and reaction, both in and outside the gallery.
Franz West was born in 1974 in Vienna, and died in 2012 in Vienna. He studied at the Academy of Applied Arts from 1977 to 1982. His work has been a fixture in countless international survey exhibitions all over the world. Recent exhibitions include “Burning,” Musée d’Art Contemporain, Marseille (2002); “Franzwestite: Franz West—Works 1973–2003,” Whitechapel Art Gallery, London (2003); “We’ll Not Carry Coals,” Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria (2003); “Recent Sculptures,” Lincoln Center and Doris C. Freedman Plaza, New York (2004); Vancouver Art Gallery (2005); “Les Pommes d’Adam,” Place Vendôme, Paris (2007, traveled to Hall Art Foundation at MASS MoCA - Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, in 2014); “Sit on My Chair, Lay on My Bed,” Museum für angewandte Kunst (MAK), Vienna (2008); “To Build A House You Start with the Roof: Work, 1972–2008,” Baltimore Museum of Art (2008, traveled to Los Angeles County Museum of Art through 2009); Fondation Beyeler, Basel (2009); “White Elephant,” Museo Tamayo, Mexico City (2009); “Auto-Theatre,” Museum Ludwig, Cologne (2010, traveled to Museo d‘Arte Contemporanea Donnaregina, Naples; and Universalmuseum Joanneum, Austria, through 2011); Philadelphia Museum of Art (2012); and “Franz West: Where is my Eight?” Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig (mumok), Vienna (2013, traveled to Museum für Moderne Kunst (MMK), Frankfurt; and The Hepworth Wakefield, England, through 2014). Public collections including Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Tate, London; Albertina, Vienna; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; and Museum of Modern Art, New York. He was awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the 54th Biennale di Venezia in 2011.
A major retrospective of his work will open at the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, in fall of 2018, which will then travel to the Tate Modern, London, the following year.