Artist biography

Austrian sculptor and installation artist. He attended the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Vienna. His first important works, produced in the mid 1970s, were the Adaptives, a series of small amorphous objects designed as both sculptures to be contemplated and as comic playthings to be handled. West described them as prostheses, a term which suggests their biomorphic character, their incompleteness and their close relation to the body. An element derived from performance art exists alongside traditional sculptural techniques in these works, the conception of which was also affected by West's reading of pyschoanalytical texts. He also made a series of collages that combined images drawn from advertising with abstract compositional methods. He rose to prominence in the mid 1980s and around this time began to produce furniture, conceived of as installation sculpture and also often as interventions in museum spaces. His first pieces in this vein, influenced by the work of the Vienna Secessionists of the early 20th century, employed welded scrap metal in a manner which recalled his interest in collage. Auditorium (1992; Bignan, Cent. A. Contemp.) was typical of his large-scale public projects of this period: a series of iron frames turned into sofas as a result of being cushioned with foam and draped with ornate rugs. Etude de Couleur (1991; see 1998 exh. cat., pp. 39–40), another major installation, comprised a long, coloured, panelled catwalk with a urinal at the end, clearly revealing West's humour, the continued importance of colour, and the heritage of Duchamp.

Franz West: Proforma (exh. cat., essays L. Hegyi, P. Gorsen, R. Fleck, E. Badura-Triska, interview M. Brouwer and P. Pakesch, Vienna, Mus. Mod. Kst; Basle, Ksthalle; Otterlo, Rijksmus. Kröller-Müller; and elsewhere; 1996–7)
Franz West (exh. cat., essay M. Meewis, Antwerp, Openluchtmus.Beeldhouwkst Middelheim, 1998)
R. Fleck, N. Benezra and B. Curiger: Franz West (London, 1999)

10 December 2000

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