I took a liking to Franz West (1947-2012) as soon as I entered the exhibition at the Centre Pompidou and saw this quote by him: “I’ve always thought that the ideal is to do nothing and still be able to make a living out of it.” Next to the quote was a photo of the young West lying face down in bed in his parents’ apartment in Vienna, taken by his lifelong friend Friedl Kubelka, who was documenting his preference for “lying down and doing nothing.”
The 200 works (out of the 6,000 he produced in his lifetime) in the exhibition are proof, however, that he did do something – a lot, in fact. And he made a very good living from it, judging by the photo of him leaning against his Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow in 2007.
Something of a hippie in his youth, the supposedly lazy West traveled to the Near East in the late ’60s and did time in rehab and even prison for drug use. That didn’t stop him either from becoming one of the leading contemporary artists of his time, represented by big-time art dealers like Zwirner and Gagosian.
West was into “interactive” art before his time. His “Passstücke” (“Adaptives”), various objects made of painted plaster and steel, were meant to be picked up and manipulated by others in any way they wished, creating spontaneous happenings wherever they were shown. West described them as a Freudian “attempt to give form to neurotic symptoms” and returned to them over and over again throughout his career. The show includes films and photos of his friends dancing with, wearing or playing with them. Visitors to the exhibition have permission to do as they will with four of them, and there are even two hospital-like cubicles where they can draw the curtains for privacy while they play with the Passstücke.
Aside from the “Passstücke,” West made collages, colorful sculptures (some of which also served as furniture), installations (which often included works he had made previously), monumental sculptures (like the “Lemur Heads” pictured above) and posters, often collaborating with other artists, among them Mike Kelley, Douglas Gordon and Albert Oehlen. His playful humor shines through in most of these works, and it’s all good fun in spite of an occasional psychoanalytical or philosophical twist.
Continuing the saga begun with the exhibition at the Atelier des Luminères reviewed here last week on Viennese artist Gustave Klimt, who influenced his compatriot Hundertwasser, the subject of another show in the same “digital museum,” I learned that West, also a native of Vienna, was himself influenced by Hundertwasser. Who’s next in the line of succession?
Note: Monumental sculptures by Franz West are on show in the Marais in the courtyards of the Musée Picasso, the Musée Cognacq-Jay and the Bibliothéque Historique de la Ville de Paris. After Paris, this exhibition will be shown at the Tate Modern in London, February 20-May 12, 2019.Favorite