Franz West

b.1947, Vienna, Austria. d. 2012, Vienna, Austria


Franz West
Franz West, Smears, 2010, installation view, 2010 at Tate Liverpool


Franz West is best known for his tactile sculptures and interactive installations with furniture. He emerged as an artist in Vienna in the 60s at a time when many of his local contemporaries where making work that made use of the body as both a surface and site of art-making. His early sculptures, performances, and collages were produced in reaction to the Viennese actionist movement and its desire to call into question object-based art practices and viewers' traditional engagement with art.

West uses ordinary materials like plaster, papier-mâché and aluminium to produce crude abstract sculptures. His earliest work, a series of portable sculptures which he called “Adaptives", were meant for the viewer to pick up, hold or engage with as props. His later work, particularly the colourful, large-scale aluminium sculptures, capitalize on the early Adaptives' playful and inept qualities, and their performativity. Witty yet ambiguous and often deliberately crude and impractical as functional objects, these pieces invite the viewer to sit or rest on them and are only completed when the viewer engages with them.

Towards the end of the 1980s, West expanded his practice to include furniture, often presented as installations. Exhibited and commissioned for specific contexts and sites, the sculptures, sofas and chairs, draw on the potential of their surroundings by transforming the gallery or the spaces they inhabit into lounge-like environments for socializing and viewing art.

West exhibited internationally for more than three decades in galleries and museums and at major festivals including documenta IX, 1992 and documenta X, 1997, Kassel; Münster Sculpture Project, 1987 and 1997; and the Venice Biennale, 1988, 1993, 1997, 2003, 2007 and 2011. Recent solo shows include Autotheater, MADRE Museum, Naples, 2010; Museo Rufino Tamayo, Mexico City, 2009; To Build a House You Start with the Roof: Work, 1972–2008, LACMA, Los Angeles, 2009; MUMOK, Vienna, 2007; Hermitage, St Petersburg, 2007; MACRO, Rome, 2007. His work is held by both public and private collections including Tate, Centre Pompidou, Guggenheim Museum among others.