ARTIST ROOMS: Joseph Beuys – London
Tate Modern: Display
1 April 201227 September 2015

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Joseph Beuys, 'Monument to the Stag' 1958-85

Joseph Beuys
Monument to the Stag 1958-85
Wooden table, iron and copper
displayed (approximate): 925 x 1280 x 2575 mm Overall display dimensions variable
ARTIST ROOMS Acquired jointly with the National Galleries of Scotland through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008© DACS, 2009

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This room brings together works by the German artist Joseph Beuys from the early 1980s, including the installation Lightning with Stag in its Glare.

This display of sculpture by Joseph Beuys includes works that are part of ARTIST ROOMS, the collection held jointly by Tate and the National Galleries of Scotland.

One of the most important German artists of the twentieth century, Beuys was known for performances and sculptural installations that explored myth, politics and man’s relationship to the natural world. He saw creativity as central to human existence, and his art was rooted in processes of change and transformation. His sculptures were often based on found objects which he invested with symbolic associations derived from science, anthropology and his own life.

Many of the works shown here were part of an exhibition called Zeitgeist held in 1982 at the Martin-Gropius Bau, Berlin. In a section entitled ‘Workshop’ Beuys installed a huge mound of clay – a raw material formed from the earth – and surrounded it with sculptures as well as furniture, tools and other items taken from his studio.

After the exhibition, Beuys made casts of some of the elements to create Lightning with Stag in its Glare. In this installation, his animal sculptures – composed from the ramshackle detritus of industrial civilisation – are endowed with mythic significance. The bolt of lightning itself was a bronze cast from a section of the clay mound, while the stag was cast in aluminium as if illuminated by a sudden flash of light. Maggot-like primordial creatures were fashioned by embedding tools such as spanners and screwdrivers in scoops of clay. Made towards the end of the artist’s life, the installation addresses themes of finality and death, but also ideas of regeneration through the transformative power of natural energies.

Joseph Beuys (1921–1986) was born in Germany. He lived and worked in Kleve and Düsseldorf, Germany.

ARTIST ROOMS is owned jointly by National Galleries of Scotland and Tate and was established through The d’Offay Donation in 2008, with the assistance of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Art Fund and the Scottish and British Governments. The collection is being shared with museums and galleries throughout the UK with thanks to the support of the independent charity The Art Fund, and within Scotland, the Scottish Government.

Text by Simon Bolitho

Curated by Matthew Gale and Ann Coxon