Franz West - 1947 - 2012

Franz WestFranz West

Franz West (1947 - 2012) was born in Vienna. Over the last thirty years he has built up an extensive oeuvre. Even before he began his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna in the mid-1970s he experimented with photography, printmaking, monochrome paintings and papier-mâché reliefs.

He makes small three-dimensional objects that he calls Paßstücke für den menschlichen Körper (Adaptives for the Human Body). These forms made from malleable materials such as papier- mâché and plaster resemble prostheses. Visitors to exhibitions were instructed by accompanying texts and videos to fit the Adaptives to their own bodies. West wanted to encourage people to deviate from their normal everyday movements.

Franz made his first open-air piece of sculpture at the Skulptur Projekte Münster in 1987. The concept for the work was derived from his Adaptives. He transformed an old washing machine into a kind of chair, in which visitors were invited to sit but must adapt their seating posture to the form of the bent metal. Since 1996 West has made objects to be placed within the landscape. The necessary use of weatherproof materials opened up a new way of thinking about the relationship between material, form, function, context and meaning. He has occasionally worked with aluminium, but usually employs steel plates which he can work on directly. He realised that colours have a different effect in the landscape than in the city and has adapted his choice of colours accordingly.

West’s works raise questions about the differences and similarities between art works and everyday appliances. Do art works become appliances when they fulfil a function? West explores this question in his furniture sculptures, in which the difference between an art object and a chair is minimised. He uses this theme in the five-part work Qwertz which is sited on Rotterdam’s cultural axis.