Franz West

Franz West, Smears, 2010. Image courtesy of the artist

Franz West, Smears, 2010. Image courtesy of the artist

Viennese artist Franz West (b.1947, d.2012, Austria) was a renowned Austrian sculptor. Throughout his career he questioned the notion of art as an object for mere passive contemplation. Whilst exploring various ways of allowing the audience to interact and engage with his art, he deliberately stressed the materiality of his work by using media including plaster, papier-mâché, wire, polyester and aluminium to create sculpture and installation works that probe the boundary between organic and geometric form.

Being influenced by the extremely physical and confrontational work of the Viennese Actionists, in particular the performance-based work of Otto Muehl, West gained attention in the early 1980s for his Adaptives, a series of small-scale portable sculptures designed as playthings to be handled. These works helped expand the concept of sculpture towards an encouragement of physical interchange and performative experience, paving the way for a reconsideration of sculptural practice in the second half of the twentieth century.

Since the late 1980s West’s work evolved to explore the realms of interior design, furniture and display, and his sculpture grew in scale, inhabiting a variety of spaces within many of the world’s most respected museums, as well as large-scale public realm projects.

Exploring the relationship between the quotidian and the exceptional, the functional and the abstract, and in response to the theme of Touched, West produced a new large-scale sculpture entitled Smears. In the tradition of his previous works, he intended it to be ‘a sculpture that can not only be viewed from a distance but experienced whilst sitting on, lying on and touching it’. The form resembled a gigantic impasto loop of paint that seemed to have escaped from the artist’s studio and was presented as an oversized object ‘applied’ to Tate Liverpool’s galleries. The audience was invited to interact with the work in the space.

Franz West at Liverpool Biennial 2010

, 2010
Aluminum lacquered
Commissioned by and exhibited at Tate Liverpool

Supported by

Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation
The Henry Moore Foundation
Austrian Cultural Forum