FRANZ WEST (1947-2012)
FRANZ WEST (1947-2012)
FRANZ WEST (1947-2012)
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FRANZ WEST (1947-2012)
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FRANZ WEST (1947-2012)

Paukenschlag (Drum Beat)

FRANZ WEST (1947-2012)
Paukenschlag (Drum Beat)
acrylic, gauze, papier-mâché and iron on artist's plinth
sculpture: 52 3/8 x 33 1/8 x 19 5/8in. (133 x 84 x 50cm.)
plinth: 19 5/8 x 19 5/8 x 19 5/8in. (50 x 50 x 50cm.)
overall: 72 x 52 ¾ x 39 3/8in. (183 x 134 x 100cm.)
Executed in 2009
Galerie Meyer Kainer, Vienna.
Private Collection, New York.
Anon. sale, Sotheby’s New York, 18 November 2016, lot 428.
Private Collection, Europe.
Anon. sale, Sotheby’s London, 5 October 2018, lot 51.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
H. Lachmayer, Staging Knowledge, Munich 2013 (installation view illustrated in colour, p. 210).
Eisenstadt, Esterházy Palace, Haydn Explosive - A European Career at the Court of Esterhazy, 2009-2010.
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent. These lots have been imported from outside the EU or, if the UK has withdrawn from the EU without an agreed transition deal, from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.


Franz West’s Paukenschlag (2009), a billowing, craggy profusion of papier-mâché bathed in purple, yellow and coral paint, floats, as if weightless, atop a thin stem of steel. The stem branches into three at its base, one foot curling in a playful tendril. It stands atop a plywood plinth with nine irregularly-placed columns, which lift the work into the air like a prop on a jerry-built stage. An extraordinary apparition formed of everyday materials, it exemplifies West’s theatrical, accessible approach to sculpture. While art-historical echoes abound – from Giacometti’s raw human forms to Yves Klein’s biomorphic sponges and Claes Oldenburg’s surreal, soft sculptures of everyday items – West seems to evoke such precedents only to deflect them. Far from solemn or laden with meaning, Paukenschlag is an irresistible presence that invites wonder and touch, breaking free of both the decorum and difficulty associated with avant-garde art.

Born in Vienna in 1947, West came of age during an era of radical performance art in the 1960s and 1970s. While he embraced their notion of engaging audience and artwork in a direct, active relationship, West did not share the nihilistic bent of the Viennese Actionists, many of whom confronted their viewers with spectacles of violence and horror. He would develop a body of work that was instead colourful, inviting, and buoyant – if no less steeped in his city’s tradition of psychoanalytic thought. In 1974, he began to create portable mixed-media objects called Paßstücke (‘Adaptives’, or ‘Prosthetics’) that became artworks only when touched, worn, carried or otherwise activated by the viewer. West saw them as giving playful shape to the users’ neuroses, impeding or transforming the way they moved through the world. Over the following decades, he went on to create a diverse array of large-scale sculptures, furniture and set-design-like public installations, united in their tactility, wise humour and deflation of art’s self-seriousness.

As with the ‘Adaptives’, the lightness of works like Paukenschlag is both physical and spiritual. In airiness, exuberance and colour, West offers a riposte to the heaviness of the art so many of his contemporaries. ‘I have been working in papier-mâché for many years’, he said in 2007. ‘I came to this material because it’s cheap and easy to use. You can make it at home without too many complications. It doesn’t bleed. It doesn’t stink. And you can live with it without being afraid’ (F. West, quoted in T. Eccles, ‘An audience with Franz West’, ArtReview, 19 October 2018).

In Paukenschlag, West makes a nod to a special Viennese forebear: the 18th-century composer Joseph Haydn. Like West, Haydn was something of a prankster, including musical jokes and tricks with rhythm, surprise noises and false endings throughout his work. His ‘Surprise’ Symphony No. 94 – named for the sudden fortissimo chord which crashes into an otherwise gentle melody in its second movement – is known in German as the symphony mit dem Paukenschlag (the word translates roughly as ‘drumbeat’, in the sense of a loud bang or thunderclap). In 2009, West’s Paukenschlag was installed in the baroque Esterházy Palace in Eisenstadt as part of a tribute to the composer. As a bold incursion of bright colour and unruly form, the sculpture bursts into space like Haydn’s chord does into sound. It is a startling delight, embodying the ethos of an artist who found rich pleasure in bringing art and viewer closer together.

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