This week’s Modern Art Notes Podcast remembers Austrian artist Franz West, who died two weeks ago at age 65. West was one of European art’s most Puckish innovators. His art was playful and sly — he often encouraged viewers to pick up and play with or to sit down on his work — but it was also deeply rooted in the intellectual history of Vienna, his lifelong hometown.
Here’s a great example of a work built around West’s Adaptives, the art objects that he encouraged viewers to not just look at, but to play with. This is West’s Mirror in the Cabinet with Adaptives, a work he made with Italian artist Michelangelo Pistoletto. (This installation of the piece was at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 1996.) West’s idea was that gallery-goers would walk into the space, play with the Adaptives to their heart’s content and that their ‘performance’ would be shown on the television outside the cabinet, thus changing the very idea of who was really making the art or performing, and what an artwork could be. (Later on today MANPodcast will feature a photograph from inside the cabinet.)
Joining me to discuss West’s life and work is Darsie Alexander, the chief curator at the Walker Art Center. In 2008 Alexander curated West’s only American retrospective, which opened at the Baltimore Museum of Art and traveled to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.