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signed and titled on the reverse
braunkreuz on printed paper
Executed in 1969.
36 by 49.5cm.
14 1/8 by 19 1/2 in.
Germano Celant, Beuys tracce in Italia, Naples 1978, p. 140, no. 140, illustrated
Galleria Lucio Amelio, Naples
Libero Grande, Naples
Thence by descent to the present owners
In many ways, the legend that Ho Chi Minh created for himself in his urge to bring independence to Vietnam after World War II directly mirrors that which Beuys created for himself to bring about a revolution in artistic thinking during the same period. In February 1941, this Vietnamese revolutionary re-entered Vietnam for the first time in thirty years. He had left Saigon in 1911 as Nguyen Tat Thanh and toured the world in various guises. However, scholars and historians have had a tough time making sense of this chameleon who changed names, locations and identities so capriciously. Eventually, in 1945, he turned from exiled anti-colonialist propagandizer to President of the new Vietnam. Subsequently, his political heirs have carefully nurtured the myth of Uncle Ho, the gentle and wise mandarin who founded the nation, as a form of inspiration for the people.
In the same manner, Beuys created his own myth surrounding his now legendary escape from near death when in 1941, as a 19 year old pilot in the Luftwaffe, he was brought down in a snowstorm deep in Crimea. Rescued from the jaws of near-death by a group of Nomadic Tartars who, with their ritualistic respect for the healing potential of materials, covered his body in fat to help regenerate warmth and wrapped it in felt as an insulator to keep the warmth in. Fully insulated, but still unconscious, Beuys was strapped onto the back of a sledge and towed back to civilisation, and a new life. From here on in, Beuys' art revolved around his life and he became a kind of mystical and spiritual Shaman who could adapt identities and used the process of thought as the basis for an art which sought a better world.
Here, in one of his most profound works on paper, Beuys has taken a magazine article and covered all of the words which surround his hero with his now infamous medium of Braunkreuz. This is an oil paint which he first discovered in 1958 when trying to cover a cross form with with a colour which would have no meaning as such. Eventually he ended up with a common brown floor paint, which he renamed 'Braunkreuz'. Used in his drawings ever since, mostly sculpturally in large solid areas and more as substance than colour, it has an effect of neutralisation. Chosen almost as a way of avoiding any exterior connections, especially with art, Beuys' use of the mysterious Braunkreuz, here shuts out all of the magazine's verbiage about Ho Chi Minh. Instead, we are encouraged to contemplate the portrait of the man himself as a representation of absolute wisdom and man's ability to effect change in his own land.
London, United Kingdom