JOSEPH BEUYS: Important Sculptures from the 1950s: 20 Sept. – 16 Nov. 2019 Bastian, LONDON

Joseph Beuys, The Couple, 1952 – 1953, plaster, wax, wood, 77 x 60 x 20.5 cm, Installed in vitrine: 164 x 160 x 72 cm Courtesy BASTIAN, © Joseph Beuys Estate

BASTIAN is pleased to present Joseph Beuys: Important Sculptures from the 1950s, running from 20 September – 16 November 2019. Exhibited for the first time in the UK, five unique sculptures from the 1950s by Beuys are shown alongside documentary photographs, offering a rare opportunity to discover significant early works of one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. The exhibition follows a solo show of German painter Ulrich Erben and affirms BASTIAN’s dedication to illustrating and promoting post-war German art in the UK.

Presenting work from the time when Beuys had just found his own artistic language based on a deep comprehension of the inner logic of mythology, the exhibition bears witness to the artist’s constant use of mythical references to understand an old spiritual world and its role in modern life. In his drawings and sculptures Beuys documented his ‘leitmotiv’, the path of transformation from ‘nature to culture’ in our civilization. A wanderer between worlds, he became an artist/anthropologist, a shaman interested in natural phenomena, psychological processes and

archetypal early-Christian motifs. In his visions, he imagined a modern world that would recognize the importance of our ancient spiritual spheres, as visible in the language of his work.

At BASTIAN, a sculpture reflecting a process of transformation can be seen in Beuys’ 1952-53 work The Couple: two bodies, a woman and a man, are laid out next to each other on a bare stone base, encased within a glass vitrine. At first evoking a feeling of infinite peace, the viewer then notices a deep cut in the woman’s throat – suggesting the idea that Sleep and Death are interconnected, as described in Homer’s Odyssey. In Beuys’ work, however, both bodies, passing from sleep to death, represent the intact state of mind and soul. In the artist’s words: ‘I would say man does not consist only of chemical processes, but also of metaphysical occurrences. The provocateur of the chemical processes is located outside the world. Man is only truly alive when he realizes he is a creative, artistic being […].’

Also exhibited, Hammer for the Hard of Hearing, 1959-60, sees a dried cod with hand painted red coloured crosses of paper – for Beuys a way to charge the matter with a spiritual content. Hung beside a seemingly makeshift hammer of wood and glass, both objects represent a deliberate interdependency of an organic, natural material with a man-made tool, the silent hammer. The work’s title playfully alludes to the notion of sound as sculptural material and the contradiction of the silent hammer, which would break when used. Beuys’ works from the early 60s continue to incorporate these acoustic dimensions, embodying his ‘extended concept of art’ as encompassing every creative action.

Since his death in 1986, Beuys has been the subject of a number of major exhibitions in the UK and internationally, including Tate Modern (London), De La Warr Pavilion (Bexhill on Sea), National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa),  Moscow Museum of  Modern Art  (Moscow),  and Hamburger Bahnhof (Berlin).

The exhibition is accompanied by a comprehensive publication in English and German.


Founded in 1989 by Céline and Heiner Bastian, the gallery is dedicated to representing and exhibiting modern and contemporary art. Under the direction of second-generation Aeneas Bastian since 2016, the London gallery space opened in February 2019. BASTIAN’s core exhibition programme includes 20th century artists such as Pablo Picasso and Jean Dubuffet, as well as German and American post-war artists including Joseph Beuys, Anselm Kiefer, Cy Twombly, Robert Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol.

As well as publishing exhibition catalogues, artist monographs and catalogues raisonnés, BASTIAN participates at international art fairs including Art Berlin, Art Düsseldorf and Masterpiece London and Hong Kong.