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Joseph Heinrich Beuys (1921 - 1986)

Lot 64: Joseph Beuys (1921-1986)


June 22, 2006
London, United Kingdom

More About this Item


Boxkampf für die direkte Demokratie
mixed media in tin and glass vitrine
15 3/4 x 202 3/4 x 12in. (40 x 515 x 30.5cm.)
Executed in 1972

Artist or Maker

Joseph Beuys (1921-1986)


Kassel, Museum Fridericianum, Joseph Beuys. Documenta Arbeit, September-November 1993, no. 64 (illustrated, p. 117).
Aachen, Suermondt-Ludwig Museum und Museumsverein Aachen, Tendenzen der modernen Kunst, February-April 1981 (illustrated, p. 17).
Cologne, Galerie Holtmann, Joseph Beuys, Objekte, Zeichnungen, Multiples, Grafik, October-December 1980.
Munich, Galerie Schellmann und Klüser, Joseph Beuys. Neue Objekte, January-March 1980.


A. Oellers, Übergänge. Beiträge zur Kunst und Literatur im Rheinland, Alfter 1993, pp. 259-67, no. 92 (illustrated, p. 263).


Galerie Schellmann & Klüser, Munich.
Galerie Holtmann, Cologne.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1981.



On the first of June, 1971, Beuys founded the 'Organisation für direkte Demokratie durch Volksabstimmung (freie Volksinitiative e.V.)'-- the Organisation for Direct Democracy through Referendum (Free Popular Initiative Association). Based on Rudolf Steiner's tripartite concept of the values of liberty, equality and fraternity-- in spiritual, legal and economic terms respectively -- Beuys' movement would be at the centre of some of his most high-profile actions and artworks in the years to follow.

Arguably the apogee of this movement was Beuys' installation at the Documenta V the following year, in Kassel. There, Beuys installed no artworks per se, but instead created an office, an Information Bureau, for his Direct Democracy Organisation. There, he held animated discussions, creating ever-changing displays on his ubiquitous blackboards, filling the office with slogans, as well as a neon sign emblazoning the Organisation's name. During the discussions Abraham David Christian-Moebuss, one of the visitors who was then an art student in Kassel, suggested that Beuys should fight him in a boxing match for Direct Democracy. During the time of the exhibition, posters were created for this Action, garnering publicity, with the two artists pictured. However, publicity and funds were far less Beuys' focus than a lasting and memorable action and public display for his movement.

This match took place in the Museum Fridericianum, near the Information Bureau, surrounded by paintings by Ben which were covered in slogans declaring that 'Man Must Say Everything' and 'All Is Beautiful'. An impressive crowd attended. The referee was one of Beuys' disciples, Anatol Herzfeld. The presence of the three men in the ring itself appears to have echoed Beuys' interest in the Steinerian trinity.
After three rounds, Herzfeld declared that Beuys had won by merit of points scored for Direct Democracy. The relics of this momentous challenge-- the boxing gloves, the protective helmet worn by Christian-Moebuss, and the ropes from the ring-- were placed by Beuys himself in a zinc and glass vitrine, expressly coffin-like, which presents the viewer with an intriguing insight into the event and into the mind of the artist. The gloves, themselves identified by Beuys with insularity and which featured in some of his other works, are marked with brown crosses (on Pravda newspaper fragments) as talismanic signs of universal energy. The glove and the other materials also relate to Man's impact on the Earth, a factor that is accentuated in Beuys' deliberate use of man-made materials. All this comes together in this display, Boxkampf für direkte Demokratie, which appears almost as a modern reliquary, containing the mystical and potent attributes of the match, a memorial to one of Beuys' most lively Actions.

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