The Fondation Beyeler is presenting works by Franz West (b. 1947) on the lower floor and in the museum park. West is a major protagonist on the international art scene. Based in Vienna, he has made a name for himself especially with three-dimensional conceptions (sculptures and installations). The presentation, on view in parallel with the “Giacometti” exhibition (May 31 – October 11, 2009), comprises 18 pieces from various series of West’s works, including new and rarely exhibited ones. Their common feature is the inclusion of the viewer, who is encouraged to “occupy” and use them.
A basic theme in West’s oeuvre is communication and interaction with and through art. His sculptures challenge audiences to abandon the static viewer’s position and actively use the objects, thereby making their own movements an integral part of the work. West’s sculptural work began in the 1970s with his Passstücke (Fitted Pieces), which he described as “body-extending meaning protheses.” From 1987onwards he created a variety of chairs assembled from prefabricated parts or covered with textiles, alienated pieces with an ironic thrust that captured the attention of the art world. The works on display at the Fondation Beyeler likewise address the issue of the borderline between object of art and utilitarian object.
One of the most recent works in the presentation, Bratislava, 2009, consists of the artist’s familiar chaise longues covered with silver material, arranged around a large epoxy resin sphere. With Geneaology of the Ineffable, 1997, and Nulpen/Zerox, 2006, major examples of the famous Fitted Pieces are on view. From the “ear boxes” of the linen-covered Club Fauteuil, 2007, viewers hear music composed by Philipp Quehenberger. The forms of the large-scale sculptures Alpha and Omega, both 2008, correspond to the Greek letters of the titles. In the installation Red Light District, in turn, West employs illuminated lampshades to evoke an all-pervading red hue.
On view in the Fondation’s Berower Park will be the spectacular outdoor sculpture Schleife (Loop), 2009, one of three similarly configured seat sculptures. These relate to a diagram by Ludwig Wittgenstein, which he employed as an example of meaninglessness and a symbol of death. The work Sinnlos (Meaningless), 2008, which can be used as a wardrobe, likewise goes back to “Wittgenstein’s meaningless doodlings.”