Art Term

Social sculpture

Social sculpture is a theory developed by the artist Joseph Beuys in the 1970s based on the concept that everything is art, that every aspect of life could be approached creatively and, as a result, everyone has the potential to be an artist

Joseph Beuys, ‘7000 Oak Trees’ 1982
Joseph Beuys
7000 Oak Trees 1982
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland
© DACS, 2019

Social sculpture united Joseph Beuys’s idealistic ideas of a utopian society together with his aesthetic practice. He believed that life is a social sculpture that everyone helps to shape.

Many of Beuys’s social sculptures had political and environmental concerns. 7000 Oaks began in 1982 as a five-year project to plant 7000 trees in Kassel in Germany. It raised many questions about city planning, the future of the environment and social structures.

The concept of social sculpture continues today with artists like Pedro Reyes who collected 1,527 weapons from residents of Cuiliacán in Western Mexico, which were exchanged for electronics. The artist then melted the weapons down into shovels, which were used to plant 1,527 trees.

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Tate Etc

The legacy of a myth maker: Joseph Beuys

Francesco Bonami

Joseph Beuys is considered by some as the most important of the post-war period – a sculptor, performance artist, teacher and ...


Joseph Beuys - Eurasienstab, Fluxorum organum opus 39

“Eurasienstab, Fluxorum organum opus 39” a film made by Joseph Beuys and Henning Christansen with soundtrack by Hennig Christiansen, “Fluxorum ...


Joseph Beuys at Tate (exerpts) 1972

A film by Ken McMullen 16 mm B+W Collection Ken McMullen

selected artists in the collection

Joseph Beuys


selected artworks in the collection

Joseph Beuys Felt Suit


social sculpture at tate

Tate Modern Exhibition

Joseph Beuys: Actions, Vitrines, Environments

4 Feb – 2 May 2005
Joseph Beuys: Actions, Vitrines, Environments, Tate Modern