Joseph Beuys (German, 1921–1986) was a performance artist and sculptor who worked in post-World War II Germany. Born in Western Germany between World War I and World War II, he was a member of the Hitler Youth as a young adult, and joined the German air-force in 1941. His plane was shot down in 1944, a dramatic event that the artist referenced through the incorporation of several motifs in his subsequent artistic production. According to the artist, he was rescued by a Crimean tribe of Tartars, who wrapped him in fat and felt to nurse him back to health.

After the war, Beuys studied sculpture at the Düsseldorf Academy of Art, where he became a professor of monumental sculpture in 1960. Starting in 1963, Beuys began to create Aktion, his sensationalist happenings, which drew public attention for their mysterious performances, ritualistic props, and use of live and dead animals. Famous Aktion happenings included How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare and I Like America and America Likes Me, in which he flew to New York to share a room with a coyote for eight hours over a period of three days. Firm in his belief that “everyone is an artist,” Beuys worked on public and political art for the last 20 years of his life. He also was a founding member of Germany’s Green Party and FIU, or the Free International University for Creativity and Interdisciplinary Research.


Born in Krefeld, Germany
Diploma High School Kleve, Germany
War service as a gun pilot
Studied sculpture at the Düsseldorf Academy of Art under Joseph Enseling and Ewald Mataré, Düsseldorf, Germany
Appointed professor at State Art Academy Düsseldorf, Sculpting Division, Düsseldorf, Germany
Began to associate with Fluxus artists
Became a member of the Academy of Arts, Berlin, Germany
Became a member of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Stockholm, Denmark
Received the Wilhelm Lehmbruck Prize, Duisburg, Germany
Died: in Düsseldorf, Germany


Goethe, Bond and Beuys - The Furka, 1779 – 1991 - Bro­mer Art Collec­tion (BAC), Rogg­wil-Kal­ten­her­berg, Switzerland
Kunst mit der Kamera - Analoge Fotografie 1963 - 1996 - Brigitte March International Contemporary Art, Stuttgart, Germany
This is Not a Love Song - La Virreina - Centre de la Imatge, Barcelona, Spain
Neunzehnhundertsiebzig. Material, Orte, Denkprozesse, Kunstmuseum Luzern, Lucerne, Switzerland
NeuenGalerie - neu gesehen: Sammlung + documenta-Erwerbungen - Neue Galerie, Kassel, Germany
Art is Liturgy, Kolumba, Cologne, Germany
Die Bildhauer. Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, 1945 bis heute - K20 Grabbeplatz, Dusseldorf, Germany
Video Vintage 1963-1983 - Beirut Art Center, Beirut, Lebanon
Contra Tàpies - Fundación Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona, Spain
Ensemblematic - SMAK Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, Gent, Belgium
Schauplatz Stadt - Gemälde, Zeichnungen, Installationen von der Klassischen Moderne bis zur Gegenwart, Kunstmuseum Mülheim an der Ruhr, Mülheim/Ruhr, Germany
Social Plastics, Beuys in China, CAFA Art Museum, China Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing, China
DAS GESCHENK. Geben - Sich Hingeben, Stadtgalerie Klagenfurt, Klagenfurt, Austria
Herinnering, energie, transformatie, De Hallen, Haarlem, The Netherlands
Iphigenie, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris, France
Hirschdenkmäler, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris, France
Joseph Beuys, Goethe-Institut Paris, France
Joseph Beuys: Appeal for an Alternative. Moscow museum of modern art - MMOMA, Moscow, Russia
Mein Rasierspiegel, Museum Kurhaus Kleve, Germany
Joseph Beuys. Foreman Art Gallery of Bishop’s University, Sherbrooke, Canada
Mein Rasierspiegel. Von Holthuys bis Beuys, Museum Kurhaus Kleve, Germany
Joseph Beuys. Portland Art Museum, Portland, USA
Joseph Beuys, Galerie Thomas Modern, Munich, Germany
Multiples, Graphiken, Arbeiten auf Papier, Städtische Galerie sohle 1, Bergkamen, Germany
Beuys E Bem AlÉm, Ensinar Como Arte, Instituto Tomie Ohtake, São Paulo, Brazil
Joseph Beuys. Difesa della Natura, Kunsthaus Zürich, Zurich, Switzerland
Joseph Beuys, Gagosian Gallery Madison, New York, USA (solo)
Joseph Beuys, De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill on Sea, UK (solo)
Focus: Joseph Beuys, Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA (solo)
ARC/Musée d'art moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, France
Art International Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
Slought Foundation, Philadelphia, USA
Ludwig Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art, Budapest, Hungary
Musée municipal d'art de la Roche sur Yon, La Roche-sur-Yon, France
Joseph Beuys, Tate Modern, London, UK (solo)
Ludwig Forum fur Internationale Kunst, Aachen, Germany
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, USA
Joseph Beuys: Kleine Zeichnungen, Kunsthaus, Kaufbeuren, Germany (solo)
Joseph Beuys: Kleine Zeichnungen, Mykolas-Zilinskas-Kunstgalerie, Kaunas, Litauen; Walker Hill Art Center, Seoul, Korea (solo)
Joseph Beuys: Kleine Zeichnungen, Van Reekum Museum, Apeldoorn, The Netherlands; Bündner Kunstmuseum, Chur, Switzerland; Kunsthalle, Rostock, Germany (solo)
Joseph Beuys: Kleine Zeichnungen, Kultur- und Kongresszentrum La Poste, Visip, Switzerland (solo)
Hauptstrom Jupiter. Beuys und die Antike. Zeichnungen 1946 – 1960, Gerhard Marcks-Haus, Bremen, Germany (solo)
Joseph Beuys: Eine Innere Mongolei. Dschingis Khan, Schamanen, Aktricen, Bleistiftzeichnungen, Aquarell und Ölfarben aus der Sammlung van der Grinten, Galerie Jahrhunderthalle Hoechst, Frankfurt, Germany (solo)
Joseph Beuys: Denken ist bereits Plastik. Zeichnungen zur Plastischen Theorie aus der Sammlung van der Grinten, Grafische Sammlung der Eidgenössischen T.H., Zürich, Switzerland (solo)
Joseph Beuys: Manresa. Zeichnungen, Fotos, Materialien zu einer Fluxus-Demonstration. 25 Jahre Manresa. 500 Jahre Ignatius, Kunst-Station Sankt Peter, Cologne, Germany (solo)
Galerie Holtmann, Cologne, Germany
Joseph Beuys – Frühe Arbeiten aus der Sammlung van der Grinten, Akademie Galerie der Akademie der Künste der DDR, Berlin, Germany (solo)
Brennpunkt Düsseldorf: Joseph Beuys, Die Akademie. Der Allgemeine Aufbruch 1962 – 1987, Kunstmuseum, Düsseldorf, Germany (solo)
Beuys zu Ehren, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich, Germany (solo)
Galerie Holtmann, Cologne, Germany
Joseph Beuys: Braunkreuz, Nijmeegs Museum, Nijmegen, The Netherlands (solo)
Joseph Beuys: An Exhibition Based on the Ulbricht Collection, The Seibu Museum of Art, Tokyo, Japan (solo)
Joseph Beuys: Drawings, City Art Gallery, Leeds, UK (solo)
Hommage à Joseph Beuys, Galerie Holtmann, Cologne, Germany (solo)
Joseph Beuys: Arbeiten aus Münchner Sammlungen, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich, Germany (solo)
Opening Exhibition, Galerie Holtmann, Cologne, Germany
Joseph Beuys: Zeichnungen, Tekeningen, Drawings, Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam, The Netherlands (solo)
Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy
Joseph Beuys, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, USA (solo)
Joseph Beuys: Tekeningen, Aquarellen, Gouaches, Collages, Olieverven, Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst, Gent, Belgium (solo)
Joseph Beuys, Kestner Gesellschaft, Hannover, Germany
Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy
Joseph Beuys: The Secret Block for a Secret Person in Ireland, Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, UK (solo)
Joseph Beuys: Zeichnungen aus der Sammlung Karl Ströher, Kunsthalle, Tübingen, Germany (solo)
Joseph Beuys: Zeichnungen und andere Blätter aus Sammlung Karl Ströher, Hessisches Landesmuseum, Darmstadt, Germany (solo)
Joseph Beuys: Objekte und Zeichnungen aus der Sammlung van der Grinten, Von der Heydt-Museum, Wuppertal, Germany (solo)
La Rivoluzione siamo noi: Partitura di Joseph Beuys, Modern Art Agency, Naples, Italy (solo)
Joseph Beuys, Kunstverein, Ulm, Germany (solo)
Joseph Beuys: Zeichnungen, Kleine Objekte, Kunstmuseum, Basel, Switzerland (solo)
Joseph Beuys: Parallelprozess I, Municipal Museum, Mönchengladbach, Germany (solo)
Joseph Beuys: Zeichnungen, Galerie nächst St. Stephan, Vienna, Austria (solo)
Joseph Beuys: Mit Braunkreuz, Galerie René Block, Berlin, Germany (solo)
Joseph Beuys: Irgendein Strang..., Galerie Schmela, Dusseldorf, Germany (solo)
Documenta, Kassel, Germany

Public Collections

Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA
Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, Spain
Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
Dia Art Foundation, New York, NY
Kunstmuseum, Basel, Switzerland
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL
National Museum, Kassel, Germany


Stachelhaus, Heiner. Joseph Beuys. New York, NY: Abbeville Press, 1991
Adriani, Götz, Winfried Konnertz, and Karin Thomas. Joseph Beuys: Life and Works. New York: Barron's Educational Series, Inc., 1979