Between the mid-1960s and his death in 1986, Joseph Beuys created over 500 multiples inexpensive, editioned artworks, with which he sought to make his art available to a larger audience. Experimenting freely with a wide array of formats and materials, he used these small objects and works on paper to reach a broader public than was possible with unique artworks or with ephemeral artistic activities like his performances, lectures and discussions. Positioning himself as a broadcaster, Beuys imagined the multiples as antennae, which would carry his creative concerns into the wider world: I am a Sender, he declared, I transmit! Gathering together ideas and energies from across the many strands of his expansive oeuvre, the multiples expressed the full range of Beuyss artistic interests, relaying these into the homes and daily lives of their owners.
Presenting nearly one hundred works from the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, and supplementing these with a number of external loans, the exhibition addresses four key aspects of the multiples: their astonishing material diversity, their status as editioned objects, Beuyss cooperation with a range of publishers in their production, and his use of the multiples to support specific projects and activities. This wide-ranging, multi-focussed presentation provides the opportunity to approach the multiples from both past and contemporary perspectives, reflecting on their status as historical objects, while considering the kinds of messages they transmit today.
Thanks to a privately-funded purchase of over 200 works in 2008 and 2009, and to subsequent acquisitions, the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen possess a sizeable collection of the multiples. This substantial group of works was rounded out in 2013 through a purchase of 10 further multiples by PIN. Friends of the Pinakothek der Moderne.
The exhibition I am a Sender. Multiples by Joseph Beuys is the first in-depth presentation of these holdings. It is the product of an 18-month research collaboration between the Pinakothek der Moderne and the Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, USA, which also holds one of the few extensive collections of these works. Initiated by the Pinakothek der Moderne, this project was made possible in Munich by the International Patrons of the Pinakothek and in Cambridge by Renke B. and Pamela M. Thye, and the German Friends of the Busch-Reisinger Museum.
In tandem with the exhibition, the Pinakothek der Moderne has launched a new website, showcasing key multiples from its collection. Together with images and descriptions of the multiples themselves, the site contains an overview of Beuyss career, a glossary of terms related to his life and art, a listing of key publishers with whom he worked, and a brief history of multiples as an art form.
Online from June 23rd: www.pinakothek-beuys-multiples.de