Franz West: Best Known Viennese Artist Of His Generation Dies

Franz West sculpture

Franz West the innovative Austrian sculptor has died age 65. He was one of the best known contemporary artists living in Vienna, where he was born in 1947.

West began his career in mid-1960s Vienna when a local movement called Actionism was in full swing. West’s earliest sculptures, performances, and collages were a reaction to this movement, in which artists engaged in displays of radical public behavior and physical endurance meant to shake up art-world passivity. In the early 1970s, West began making a series of small, portable sculptures called “Adaptives” (“Paßtücke”), awkward-looking plaster objects that were only completed as artworks when the viewer picked them up and carried them around, or performed some other inherently slapstick action with them. In many ways, his large-scale aluminum sculptures were simply overgrown versions of the “Adaptives.” But they also relate directly to his installations, where West made furniture. West had the ability to make comfortable and colorfully upholstered couches and chairs which transform galleries, museums, and public spaces into lounge-like, sociable environments for viewing art. His latest work, a large pink sculpture (see photo) was his largest to date and comprised the centrepiece of the Art Unlimited section of the recent Art Basel fair in June.

West had exhibited internationally for more than three decades in galleries and museums, and at major festivals including Documenta IX (1992) and Documenta X (1997), Kassel, Germany; Sculpture Projects in Münster (1997); and the Venice Biennale (1988, 1993, 1997, 2003). In 1997 The Museum of Modern Art presented West with a solo show. West’s work has been exhibited at the Museo Nacional de Arte Reina Sofía (2001), Whitechapel Gallery, London (2003); Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna (2003); Gagosian Gallery, New York (2003, 2008), Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich (2006), Gagosian Gallery, London (2006), The Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore (2009), Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles (2009), Museo Tamayo, Mexico (2009), Almine Rech Gallery, Brussels (2010), Museum Ludwig, Ludwig (2010) and MADRE, Naples (2010). The exhibition ‘Autotheater’ that began its 2010 tour at Museum Ludwig opens in September 2010 at its final destination, Kunsthaus Graz, Graz, Austria. Also opening in September 2010 will be ‘Roman Rome’ at Gagosian Rome and simultaneously ‘Room in Rome,’ an installation of outdoor sculptures at Piazza di Pietra, Rome. He will be sadly missed by his wife the Georgian artist Tamuna Sirbiladze as well as to his many fans.

Photo:© ArtLyst PC Robinson 2012