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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social sculpture at tate