Joseph Beuys and the art market in the jubelee year 2021

The German Fluxus, happenings and performance artist Joseph Beuys had great influence on the German and European art scene as an artist as well as a theorist of art. He was born 100 years ago on May 12 in 1921. In occasion of this anniversary it seems to be appropriate to take a closer look at his position in the art market.

Since the beginning of this year more than 250 works by Beuys have been offered at international auctions. Furthermore, there are and were numerous exhibitions at institutions, especially in Germany. E. g. the university of Dusseldorf has organised under the leadership of Eugen Blume and Catherine Nichols and under the title “beuys 2021” several activities in the Rheinland. In Aachen, Bonn, Dortmund, Duisburg, Düsseldorf, Essen, Krefeld, Munster and further museums and exhibition spaces there will be works, films, concerts, book presentations and symposiums on this exceptional artist. In the Belvedere 21 in Vienna there is another exhibition on a large scale entitled “Think. Act. Convey”. In addition, since last Sunday the exhibition “Von der Sprache aus. (Starting from Language)” at the Berlin-based Hamburger Bahnhof is open and from the end of this month on there will be an interesting confrontation of Beuys and Lehmbruck on view at the Bundeskunsthalle in Bonn.

Does this high media presence have influence on the market development of the artist?

First of all, it is remarkable that the quantity of works which are offered at auction has sharply increased this year. In the reference period of last year 2020 there were only 129 works coming to auction in comparison to 267 works this year. Nearly 20 % of the offered lots in 2021, 24 works, were sold for more than 10.000 EUR. In the reference period in 2020 only eight lots could exceed this limit. These numbers alone indicate an upturn of Joseph Beuys in the jubilee year.

This view is supported by another sale: At Phillips in London the threedimensional edition “Sled” (an edition of 50 from 1969) was sold on Monday for even more than 150.000 EUR. The widely known object “Capri Battery” from Schellmann in an edition of 200 from 1985 was furthermore sold for the stable price of nearly 20.000 EUR at the same auction in the UK.

To sum up Joseph Beuys’ jubilee year has aroused great interest in this artist – and inspite of the limitations caused by the pandemic there is an upward trend visible in his market value, more works are offered for sale and on top, they are sold for higher prices.

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