press release

Presenting over 150 works, the exhibition Joseph Beuys: Greetings from the Eurasian seeks simultaneously to consider Joseph Beuys’ activities in Antwerp during the 1960s and 1970s, alongside his relevance to a new generation.

Joseph Beuys was one of the most significant and influential artist of the twentieth century, expanding the scope of art into the realms of politics, society and ecology. Beuys was active in Antwerp during the 1960s and 1970s through his relationship with the seminal gallery Wide White Space. Amongst his numerous exhibitions, it is here that he also made his performance Eurasienstab (Eurasian Staff) in collaboration with Henning Christiansen on February 9, 1968. Joseph Beuys: Greetings from the Eurasian will in the first instance look at Beuys as an artist that was not only active in Antwerp (where he met other figures of the Post-War avant-garde such as Marcel Broodthaers and Panamarenko) but was also deeply influential in Belgium more broadly, in a way that has been largely forgotten.

The exhibition also considers Beuys as a figure who worked in a way that was contrary to the logic and hegemony of modernism. He was in a sense the embodiment of the anti-modern—against greater rationality, individualism and the Eurocentric world-view. Using his Eurasienstab performance as a starting point, the exhibition will consider how Beuys’ use of the notion of "Eurasia" was part of his anti-modern sentiment, looking away from the grand-narrative and hegemony of the "West," and towards a vision of affinity with the "East," to the point of even removing such distinctions. It was a vision that was more attuned to cultural depth, mysticism and to nature. This anti-modern approach also echoed in his political engagement, with an approach to politics though a belief in discursiveness, latent energy and direct action.

Joseph Beuys: Greetings from the Eurasian presents numerous major works by Beuys, including a number of installations related to key actions, including Eurasienstab (Eurasian Staff) (1968) and Honigpumpe am Arbeitsplatz (Honeypump at the Workplace) (1977) that he activated at the Documenta 6 exhibition in 1977, as well as key works such as Infiltration homogen für Konzertflügel (Homogeneous Infiltration for Grand Piano) (1966) and Hirschdenkmäler(Monuments to the Stag) (1958/1982), amongst many others. The exhibition will also look at the activities of the Antwerp Free International University that was set up by proponents of the Antwerp artistic community during the early 1980s. Joseph Beuys: Greetings from the Eurasian will be the first major exhibition of works by Beuys in Belgium since the 1980s.

The exhibition is curated by Nav Haq, Senior Curator, M HKA.