Franz West Dies at Age 65

by Whitney Kimball on July 26, 2012 Obituary

Photo of Franz West's exhibition "Roman Room" at Gagosian Gallery in Rome, 2010. (Photo courtesy of New York Times Magazine).

The BBC reports that the highly influential Viennese artist Franz West has died at the age of 65.

The Franz West Foundation, Gagosian Gallery, Galerie Meyer Kainer and Galerie Eva Presenhuber released a joint statement, saying West “charmed, influenced and inspired his contemporaries, students and followers and all those who encountered him.”

West, born in 1947, came of age during the Viennese Actionist movement in the mid-1960s. His early touchable sculptures, or “Adaptives,” are seen as a reaction to that movement, less in-your-face than on-your-palm. West continued to make plaster and papier-mâché sculpture, and in the mid-90s began making  bulbous tubes and large-scale wiry loops, often with seats; readers may remember seeing one such work, “The Ego and the Id,” in Central Park from 2009-10. The work tends to share a sort of “bad art” flavor with Jean Dubuffet, the bodily roughness of Rebecca Warren, the playful gesture of Jonathan Lasker, and the high-art appeal of Ernesto Neto. Since the mid-80s, West also worked with furniture design, further developing an interactive quality which would later manifest in relational aesthetics. “…I really do not think in such categories between furniture and sculptures,” he was quoted in New York Times Magazine in 2010.

Ken Johnson once called West “a godfather of the lately popular grunge aesthetic, enormously influential,” though he also said West “may be one of the world’s most overrated artists.” The art world rated him well. West appeared frequently at Documenta and the Venice Beinnale, and only last year won the Biennale’s Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement, one of the highest possible honors for a living artist.

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