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  • In 1941, at the height of World War II, Joseph Beuys volunteered for the Luftwaffe. At just twelve years old when the Nazi party took power in Germany, the artist’s entire life, like that of his entire generation, was marked by the rise of fascism. Months before his twenty-third birthday, Beuys’ plane was shot down over the Crimea. Landing brusquely on the icy terrain below, he nevertheless survived the crash.

     

    This work, like so many others of Beuys’ creations, may be seen as directly referencing this experience. Its colour and texture resemble that of a plane fragment found in the aftermath of a crash. The needles, elegantly arranged one atop the other in ascending size order, elicit contradictory emotions. The object’s double-function of suturing and wounding, or perhaps even of healing through puncturing represents man’s paradoxical encounter with the brutality of war.

     

    After the crash, Beuys maintained that he was rescued by a group of Tartar tribesmen, a nomadic people, who wrapped his body in fat and felt. By now relegated to the realm of fiction, this narrative sheds light on the complexities of death and violence, with Beuys’ famed mythmaking a moving sublimation of trauma.

    • Exhibited

      Madrid, Fundacion Caja de Pensiones, Joseph Beuys. Dibujos Drawings, 23 October - 1 December, 1985, no. 67 (and travelling)
      Mönchengladbach, Städtisches Museum Abteiberg, Joseph Beuys. Pirustuksia Zeichnungen, 23 February - 20 April, 1986 (and travelling)

18

KRIEG! (WAR!)

1977
Unique work comprised of needles, thread and silver bronze on cardboard.
18.5 x 13.7 cm (7 1/4 x 5 3/8 in.)
Signed, titled and dated '1977 KRIEG! Joseph Beuys' in pencil on the reverse, framed.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
£20,000 - 30,000 ‡ ♠

Sold for £21,420

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BEUYS 100

London Auction 14 June 2021