Joseph Beuys

Joseph Beuys (May 1921 – January 1986)

“Everyone is an artist as long as they act in a conscious way and with conviction, then everyone has the potential to create and potentially change society”

– Joseph Beuys

Joseph Beuys was a German artist, art theorist, pedagogue and one of the founding members of Fluxus who incorporated ‘happenings’ and performance art into his work. Beuys sought to obfuscate the lines between life and art in a bid to make art more democratic.

As a member of the Luftwaffe, Beuys’ plane crashed in the Crimea from which he fabricated the story that he was reduced by nomadic Tatar tribesmen who covered his body in fat and felt to keep him warm. Beuys used this story to explain his frequent use of fat and felt in his work – he believed that myth and fiction contained more truth than everyday reality.

Beuys was an advocate of grassroots democracy and a founding member of the German Green Party in 1980; from the 1970s onwards, Beuys used his ‘actions’ to disseminate his political and environmental beliefs:

“Each one of us has a creative potential which is hidden by competitiveness and success aggression. Environmental pollution advances parallel with the pollution of the world within us. Hope is denounced as utopian or illusory and discarded hope breeds violence. It is no longer regarded as romantic, but exceedingly realistic to fight for every tree, every plot of undeveloped land, every stream as yet unpoisoned, every old town centre and against every thoughtless reconstruction scheme.”

– Joseph Beuys

Beuys’ most famous ‘action’ is undoubtedly How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare which premiered at his first gallery solo show in Düsseldorf in 1965. For this, Beuys locked himself inside the gallery and talked about paintings to a dead hare:

How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare (1965)


Who is Joseph Beuys?

Joseph Beuys learning resource: 

Who was Joseph Beuys? (German) 


Timeline of life (German):

Postwar Haus der Kunst biography:

Detailed biography on Beuys’ life and major works (German):

Tate biography:

Artnet biography & visual artworks:


Biographical portrayal of Beuys on his centenary (German):

Guggenheim biography:

A portrait of Beuys (German):


60 artworks by Beuys:

Timeline of works & major artworks explained:

Beuys’ project calling for environmental and social change, ‘social sculpture’: 7000 Eichen (7000 oaks):

Biography, works & quotes from Beuys:

An explanation about Beuys’ felt suit, Tate Museum: 

I Like America and America Likes Me:


Interview with Beuys in 1980 (German): ​​

1969 interview with Beuys:


The Making of Joseph Beuys, The Guardian:

Beuys’ connection to Germany’s Green Party (German)

A contemporary review of Beuys as a controversial figure:

Beuys behind the scene: a critical look at the artist:

Berliner Zeitung article on Hamburger Bahnhof’s collection of Beuys’ works:


Beuys augmented reality (AR) experience for iOS:

Quiz, podcast, video series about Beuys:


Article on ‘show your wound’ (German): ​​ 

Video on ‘thinking is plastic’ exhibition at the Bundeskunsthalle (German) & video of Dutch artist Renzo Martens on Beuys (English):

Article about the Starting From Language: Joseph Beuys at 100 exhibition, Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin:


Why Beuys is still important today:,josephbeuys102.html

Beuys in dialogue with his audience: 

Beuys’ last speech in 1986, part 1 (German with English subtitles):

Beuys’ last speech in 1986, part 2 (German with English subtitles): 

Beuys on freedom:

Curator Norman Rosenthal and artist Antony Gormley on Beuys:

Beuys’ lecture at the Institute of Contemporary Art, 1974 (English):


100-year anniversary of Beuys, Deutsche Welle (German):

Beuys and Düsseldorf:

Beuys2021, centenary celebration:

100 Years of Joseph Beuys, Goethe-Institut:

Joseph Beuys Estate:

In celebration of Beuys’ centenary (German):

6 surprising facts about Beuys:

Discover more about Beuys in Krefeld: