Franz West, Legendary Provocateur, Has Died


Austrian artist Franz West has died at age 65 in Vienna, following a long illness.

West worked with a wide range of materials, including aluminum, plaster and papier-mâché, as well as crafting furniture. In 2011 he received the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale.

Born in 1947, West studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. He began his art career in mid-1960s Vienna amid the Actionist movement, which aimed to unsettle the art world with outrageous public behavior.

West “made his mark,” Robert Storr wrote in this magazine in 2003 (“Franz West’s Corporeal Comedy”), “with artfully awkward ensembles of furniture; sculptures comprising winsomely misshapen, occasionally polychromatic lumps of papier-mâché and plaster—think Arp as basement bricoleur—and sometimes sly but more often slapstick or even gleefully pornographic collages.”

He considered his small, portable sculptures, which he called “Adaptives,” complete only when picked up and carried. These works grew into large-scale aluminum sculptures that were on view in both gallery shows and international public exhibitions.

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, Germany; Sculpture Projects in Münster (1997); and the Venice Biennale (1988, 1993, 1997, 2003). In 1997 the Museum of Modern Art presented a solo show of West’s work.

A joint statement from the Franz West Foundation, Gagosian Gallery, Galerie Meyer Kainer and Galerie Eva Presenhuber said West “charmed, influenced and inspired his contemporaries, students and followers and all those who encountered him.”