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Sharjah Biennial 14: Leaving the Echo Chamber Ocula Report Sharjah Biennial 14: Leaving the Echo Chamber 15 Mar 2019 : Stephanie Bailey for Ocula

In Meiro Koizumi's three-channel video installation, The Angels of Testimony (2019), the central frame features an interview with Hajime Kondo about his time as a solider of the Imperial Japanese Army during the Second Sino-Japanese War. The conversation centres on war crimes perpetrated in China, including the beheading of Chinese prisoners for...

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Diana Campbell Betancourt Ocula Conversation Diana Campbell Betancourt

Diana Campbell Betancourt is a curator working predominantly across South and Southeast Asia. Since 2013 she has been the founding artistic director of the Samdani Art Foundation and chief curator of the Dhaka Art Summit in Dhaka, Bangladesh, a transnational art event that has grown in size and scale ever since its first edition in 2012. Backed by...

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Chinternet Ugly at Manchester’s Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art Ocula Report Chinternet Ugly at Manchester’s Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art 7 Mar 2019 : Mike Pinnington for Ocula

China, home to 802 million internet users, is subject to sophisticated online censorship. This shrouded state of affairs, unsurprisingly perhaps, serves to reinforce stereotypes around conformity elsewhere. Any realm, digital or otherwise, subject to such strict scrutiny must necessarily be bland and uncritical, right? I was mulling over such...

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Franz West

(1947 - 2012), Austria

Franz West was an Austrian artist who produced contemporary sculpture, collages, furniture and installations. These works—all colourful, light-hearted and engaging—vary in scale from small, mobile gallery pieces to large installations in public parks and other civic spaces. For much of his long career he regularly featured in major international survey shows across the globe. He often collaborated with leading contemporary artists such as Sarah Lucas and Douglas Gordon, as well as younger artists like Anselm Reyle. West's work can be found in major public and private collections throughout Europe and the United States.

Born to communist parents in Allied-occupied post-war Vienna, West did not engage in artistic pursuits until he was well into his 20s. He had initially been studying civil engineering but dropped out in the mid-1960s to travel around Europe and the Middle East. He started making art—drawing, then sculpture and performance—around 1970, though he was at this point without any formal training. In 1977 West returned to Vienna to study art under Bruno Gironcoli at the Academy of Fine Arts, graduating in 1982. He was exposed to the performance art of the Viennese Actionists in the 1960s and 1970s, but rejected their insistence on provocative, violent ordeals and complex existential intensity. Instead he sought something more accessible. The theme of communication and interaction is present in all of West's work as he sought to disrupt the traditionally passive relationship between art viewers.

West's choice of materials is indicative of his rejection of high culture's pretentions. He made his art from plaster, papier mâché, wire, aluminium, styrofoam and carpet: materials one might expect to find in the home, the workshop or a typical school art room. In all of West's works his creative process is left visible; nothing is perfect or smooth. It is often said that he felt it does not matter what art looks like but how it is used.

West's earliest series of signature sculptures were the 'Adaptives' ('Passstücke') from the late 1970s. These small objects—made of plaster or papier mâché and painted white—were abstract forms ergonomically designed to be worn. Functioning as extensions of limbs, their completion as art could only come by the viewer adorning and performing with them. Some of the exhibited 'Adaptives' were supplemented with videos of people wearing them. The 'Adaptives'—made from non-traditional materials and roughly aligning form and function by encouraging viewer participation—became the foundation of the artist's practice.

From the 1980s, West's biomorphic sculptural forms began to develop in scale and size, translating into grand, painted or lacquered metal works and installations. The greatest manifestations of this were his later outdoor works such as The Ego and the Id (2008), with their colourful, spindly, snaking and bulbous forms. His vividly painted, organic, abstract papier mâché works such as Untitled (painted by Herbert Brandl) (1988) also developed into large-scale, imposing pieces like Untitled (large sculpture with can) (2009) and Lemur (2009).

Rising to prominence in the mid-1980s, West also began to produce and exhibit furniture as both installation sculptures and interventions in museum spaces. Initially, influenced by the early-20th-century design ethic of the Vienna Secessionists, he welded together pieces of scrap metal in a collage-like technique to make furniture resembling his 'Adaptives'. This approach is visible in the 2.1-metre piece, Untitled (2010), with its patchwork of lacquered aluminium sheeting. By the late 1980s West produced more familiar designs for tables, chairs, lamps and other domestic objects. Not intended as examples of cutting edge furniture design, some were too flimsy to be functional. Continuing this into the 2000s West made furniture such as Nannerl (2006)—composed of colourful coco mat, carpet on a steel frame—and provocatively introduced such pieces into exhibitions.

West's first large-scale public installation, Auditorium (for the 1992 documenta IX), consisted of 72 sofas—made from metal frames, ornate Turkish rugs and foam—as seating for a parking lot cinema. Most of his large-scale installations contain humour or playfulness. In Etude de couleur (1991) a colourful, panelled catwalk led to a functional urinal, highlighting the importance of colour while nodding to the heritage of Duchamp.

West also worked with two-dimensional media. From the 1970s through to the late 2000s, he produced collages, combining advertising imagery with abstract compositional arrangements. From the mid- to late 2000s, West utilised painting and collage techniques in the 'Poster Designs' that accompanied his exhibitions. The promotional design became an autonomous picture displayed in the show. The details of the exhibition referred to—the show's title, venue, date and other relevant information—became the subject matter. The 'Poster Designs'—both about the show and in it—implicated the viewer in the art.

Michael Irwin | Ocula | 2010
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Featured Artworks

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In Swanns Welt (Swann's Way) by Franz West contemporary artwork Franz WestIn Swanns Welt (Swann's Way), 1983 Collage and newspaper on paper in artist's frame
20.75 x 26.62 inches
David Zwirner
Untitled (Figure in Desert) by Franz West contemporary artwork Franz WestUntitled (Figure in Desert), 1976 Paint on magazine advertisement in artist's frame
11.12 x 8.25 inches
David Zwirner
Untitled by Franz West contemporary artwork Franz WestUntitled, c. 1983 Gouache on postcard
3.88 x 5.75 inches
David Zwirner
Untitled by Franz West contemporary artwork Franz WestUntitled, c. 1983 Gouache on postcard
3.88 x 5.75 inches
David Zwirner
Untitled by Franz West contemporary artwork Franz WestUntitled, c. 1977 Paint on magazine advertisement
8.25 x 5.62 inches
David Zwirner
Untitled by Franz West contemporary artwork Franz WestUntitled, 1972 Mixed media on paper
5.38 x 8.12 inches
David Zwirner
Untitled by Franz West contemporary artwork Franz WestUntitled, 1972 Watercolour, marker, and pencil on paper
5.88 x 8.25 inches
David Zwirner
Untitled by Franz West contemporary artwork Franz WestUntitled, 1972 Watercolour and marker on paper
5.88 x 8.25 inches
David Zwirner

Current & Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Franz West, Franz West at David Zwirner, London
Open Now
21 February–5 April 2019 Franz West Franz West David Zwirner, London
Contemporary art exhibition, Dieter Roth, Franz West, Dieter Roth and Franz West at Hauser & Wirth, Zurich
Open Now
15 March–4 May 2019 Dieter Roth, Franz West Dieter Roth and Franz West Hauser & Wirth, Zürich
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Family Guy at Simon Lee Gallery, London
Closed
3–20 October 2018 Group Exhibition Family Guy Simon Lee Gallery, London

Represented By

In Related Press

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Sarah Lucas disrupts Franz West’s Tate Modern survey in off-kilter meeting of art provocateurs Related Press Sarah Lucas disrupts Franz West’s Tate Modern survey in off-kilter meeting of art provocateurs Wallpaper* : 19 March 2019

The first posthumous UK retrospective of Austrian artist Franz West has surfaced at London's Tate Modern following a run at the Centre Pompidou. A chronological compendium of work spans the artist's anarchic career, curated by Mark Godfrey and Christine Macel with scenography by British artist Sarah Lucas.This month, West is infecting London at a...

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Franz West at Centre Pompidou, Paris Related Press Franz West at Centre Pompidou, Paris ArtReview : 1 December 2018

Emerging in an early-1970s Viennese art scene dominated by the legacy of the Wiener Gruppe and the meteoric rise of the Actionists, Franz West, unsurprisingly, was a loner for much of his career. A great believer in the potency of pleasure, he approached artmaking with a playful, mind-drifting everydayness, fusing it with social functionality –...

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57th Venice Biennale 'Viva Arte Viva' Related Press 57th Venice Biennale 'Viva Arte Viva' art agenda : 13 May 2017

Viva Arte Viva is a tautological title. Since a tautological statement is one that is necessarily true on the basis of its circular syntactical structure, it's logical to assume that Christine Macel, the curator of the 57th Venice Biennale, is asking us to believe that art is alive, and/or that we should all celebrate the celebration of art. Viva...

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Art Brussels announces details of Discovery, Rediscovery and Solo sections Related Press Art Brussels announces details of Discovery, Rediscovery and Solo sections Art Fix Daily : 9 April 2016

From April 21 to 24, the 34th edition of Art Brussels will take place in a new location, Tour & Taxis, a spectacular example of industrial architecture built in 1904, formerly a customs house. This year, the fair has been reduced in size, bringing together 141 galleries from 28 countries, represented in three main sections: PRIME, DISCOVERY and...

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