who’s afraid of the big bad wolf (vostell)?

22 July 2010 § Leave a comment


Miss Amerika 1968


Right – hands up anyone who has heard of German artist Wolf Vostell. OK, gold star for you Helmut, but for the rest of you – I thought not – extra homework tonight. And if you are good students and read to the end of the (rather factual) post, at the end Ill tell you two amazing facts.

Firstly let me tell you first of all that Vostell (1932-1998) has a whole museum, in Malpartida, Spain, dedicated to his work. He has been shown over 8o0 times worldwide, has had 210 solo shows and is included in many of the world’s most prestigious public and private collections. He is well known of the continent and there is even a Vostell ‘art hotel’ in Berlin full of his work.

Next – sit up straight – a bit about Vostell. As a student in post-war Germany period the influence of abstract expressionists like  Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko was all-pervasive. However as a child he witnessed the hell and destruction of war. His reaction was to attempt to address these horrors and to incorporate all the aspects of the modern world whilst ensuring that he created something  he called ‘more meaningful than tachist painting and sculpture.’ Early work was in the studio of poster artist Cassandre and subsequently, looking for direction he felt that ‘painting did not include the ‘phenomena of our changing and pulsating life’.

German Outlook1958-63


In de-coll/age, a word that he ‘discovered’ in a Figaro headline about a plane crash that he found a way to describe and conceive his work. It symbolised his belief that much of art in the 20th century was as much about destruction as it was creation – he recreated by destroying, recombining, disrupting and merging to create ‘not order but the transformation of order’ and also produced his own art publication with this name.

He echoed much of what was happening around him – in Europe there were movements like Nouveau Realism, Nul, Zero, the Independent Group and the Situationists whilst in the USA there was Pop, Fluxus and John Cage’s experimental music – everyone was reacting to the new world order by pushing the boundaries of art –it was a time of construction and composition, destruction and chance, chaos and transformation.

Reflecting the ‘anti-art’ aesthetics of dada Vostell went further than Duchamp who declared the ‘object as art’ by placing the ‘action as art’ – art not restricted but extended. He felt that life within art should not be just a gesture but should be a constituent part, reinforcing the Fluxus doctrine that art = life = art. He determined to include the spectator within the work and created ‘environments’ incorporating varied elements drawn from the wider world.

Lipstick Bomber 1963


He was also a prominent member of the Fluxus group – think Yoko Ono and George Maciunas – organizing its first European festival, and with others like Allan Kaprow, was a leader in the ‘happenings’ movement of the 1960’s. He was the first artist to include working televisions and in 1963 presented the first video installation in the USA and is considered one of the earliest proponents of video art. He was an innovator, experimenting widely with materials such as lead and concrete, used diverse objects such as trains, cars and planes and included other elements within his art such as sound, light and movement.

Well done everyone. Now the amazing facts. It seems that England is the one afraid! Vostell has only ever has TWO works shown in the UK – and that was back in the 1960’s otherwise being almost totally ignored. Secondly you can pick up works at auction for just a few thousand euros. This has to be a bargain, but just dont hold your breath waiting for the British art world to notice this particular big, bad Wolf!

If you liked this post please make a comment or like it. If you like the blog please subscribe for regular updates (top right of page). Many thanks! akuta

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