Franz West, born in 1947 in Vienna, is regarded as one of Austria’s most important representatives in the international art world. In 2011 he was honored with the award of a Golden Lion for his Lifetime Achievements at the Biennale di Venezia. Back in 1996 the mumok organized Franz West’s first comprehensive retrospective. In 2012, it hosted an exhibition dedicated to the work of the artist who died in 2012 after initiating and co-developing it with great enthusiasm.
The focus of the thematically structured presentation was the Kombi-Werke [combi-works]. These are mainly installative works in which West repeatedly combined a number of individual pieces into new groups. The combination and recombination of various categories of works such as furniture, sculpture, Passstücke [adaptives], videos, or works on paper, from different creative periods, gave an overview of the whole spectrum of his œuvre.
Thus at the beginning of the exhibition the viewer encountered the Genealogie des Ungreifbaren [The Genealogy of the Intangible] from 1997 in which West shows three of his early Passstücke combined with one of his first chairs in a vitrine. Combi-walls were also exhibited. For these West collected together diverse works on paper but also sculptural pieces and, with the addition of pieces of furniture, these expand to become room-filling installations as in the case of Kasseler Rippchen. West also repeatedly included works by other artists in this process.
One of the central exhibits was the papier-mâché sculpture Redundanz. It consists of three parts and can be regarded as a significant example of West’s early practice of combination and recombination. First shown in 1986, the artist considered it necessary to supplement the work with another sculpture since one part of the work had been sold against his will. The new version bears the title Reduktion. Since 2011 the mumok collection includes both versions of this work.
Visitors encountered one of West’s Lemuren [Lemurs] outside the mumok. These are head-like forms made of aluminium with over-sized openings for mouth and nose. On the top floor there were two large aluminium sculptures–one of which is almost six metres high–which West designed but which were not executed until after he died.
Franz West’s work is fundamentally participative in its approach, it seeks dialog with its recipients. The artist considered all his creations as invitations to interact and the varied reactions as a necessary and integral part of each work, the meaning of which was thereby continuously subject to change. The principle of combination and/or recombination is commensurate with his conviction that the meaning of a statement–or a pictorial element–can never be fixed or clearly defined but is repeatedly (re)constituted depending on its context and the recipient.
Curated by Eva Badura-Triska