+

Create your first list.

A way to share and manage lots.

  • '[The Tartars] covered my body in fat to help it regenerate warmth, and wrapped it in felt as an insulator to keep warmth in.' —Joseph Beuys

    In the late winter of 1944, on the remote, icy plains of the Crimean front just a few miles from Znamenka, Russian soldiers shot down a Luftwaffe plane belonging to the German airforce during World War II. One of the plane’s pilots somehow survived the impact, buried in snow underneath the fallen aircraft but hidden from sight. The young soldier, not 23, was Joseph Beuys, a man who, following Germany’s unconditional surrender in 1945, would come to be recognised as one of the preeminent figures of international conceptual art. As the story goes, Beuys was rescued by the Tartars, a nomadic people of the Crimea, then a no-man’s land between the Russian and German borders. ‘I remember voices saying “Voda” (Water)’ the artist recounted, ‘then the felt of their tents, and the dense pungent smell of cheese, fat and milk. They covered my body in fat to help it regenerate warmth, and wrapped it in felt as an insulator to keep warmth in.’ Following an arduous period of recovery which lasted several days, Beuys was returned to the German army and completed his convalescence in a military hospital. Several other accounts of this story exist, including ones which instead maintain that Beuys was rescued by German troops and immediately brought back to camp. Nonetheless, Beuys’ encounter with the Tartars, however fabled, reveals the artist’s esoteric response to the atrocities of the war – a rebirth by way of fat and felt.  

     

    Sled (1969) is one of Joseph Beuys’ most celebrated multiples, relating directly to his mythical encounter with the nomadic people. A felt cover for warmth, a flashlight for orientation, and a ball of fat for food sit atop a sled fully supplied for a challenging expedition. In 1969, the same year as Sled’s completion, Beuys created The Pack, a set of 24 sleds organised in formation, almost like a real rescue team. Emerging out of a Volkswagen van, Beuys emphasises the sled’s utility in a time of crisis, with the motorised vehicle limited by its own modern complexity.

     

    Joseph Beuys with his work The Pack (1969) at the Guggenheim Museum prior to the opening of his 1979 retrospective. Image: Ted Thai/Getty Images © DACS 2021
    Joseph Beuys with his work The Pack (1969) at the Guggenheim Museum prior to the opening of his 1979 retrospective. Image: Ted Thai/Getty Images © DACS 2021

    Viewing art as a means towards social change, Beuys’ Sled then not only represents provision, it also offers a route towards a fundamental, primitive freedom. ‘The most direct kind of movement over the earth’ the artist continued, ‘is the sliding of the iron rudders of the sleds.’ Dating back to his keen interest in botany and zoology throughout his childhood, this closeness to the natural world would be a crucial aspect of Beuys’ artistic process, culminating in 7000 Eichen (7000 Oaks), where the artist planted 7000 trees during documenta 7 in Kassel, Germany. In 1979, Beuys’ candidature for the European Parliament also helped raise concern over the environment and industrialisation.

     

    Due to its small size and its connotations with free movement, as well as the imagined story behind it, Sled is also reminiscent of childhood. Indeed, within the popular imagination, the object has long been associated with infancy; famously, this link was explored in Orson Welles’ ground-breaking movie Citizen Kane (1941), where the titular character sees himself as a boy with his sled, ‘Rosebud’, moments before passing away. Like a once beloved childhood toy which was lost but finally rediscovered, Sled reveals, through a universally recognisable emotive quality, the essential yearning for freedom, adventure, and fantastic recollections. 

    • Literature

      Jörg Schellmann 12

Property from an Important American Collection

15

Schlitten (Sled) (S. 12)

1969
Wooden sled, felt, belts, flashlight, fat, and oil paint (Browncross).
91.4 x 43.2 x 34.3 cm (36 x 17 x 13 1/2 in.)
Stamp-numbered '04' on a plaque affixed to the sled, from the edition of 50 (there were also 5 hors commerce copies), published by Galerie René Block, Berlin.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
£80,000 - 120,000 Ω ♠

Sold for £132,300

Contact Specialist

Anne Schneider-Wilson

Senior Specialist, Editions

T +44 207 318 4042

M +44 7760 864 748

[email protected]

 

Rebecca Tooby-Desmond

Specialist, Head of Sale, Editions

T +44 207 318 4079

M +44 7502 417366

[email protected]

 

Robert Kennan

Head of Editions, Europe,

T +44 207 318 4075

M +44 7824 994 784

[email protected]

 

BEUYS 100

London Auction 14 June 2021