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Wolf Vostell’s artworks, on display on the museum’s first floor, are another peak of the private collection. They are organised into thematic sections, and provide a comprehensive overview of phases, themes and techniques of Vostell’s work, starting with his early work, almost forgotten today.
Born in Leverkusen in 1932, Vostell was one of the most versatile artists of the 60s. After completing an apprenticeship in photolithography, he studied in Wuppertal and at the academies in Paris and Düsseldorf. His working technique was initially conventional, but the subject matter already revealed his political conscience. For instance, his painting “Korea” (1953) addressed the cruelties of war. It showed two people fused with a tank. One man has his mouth open to scream. A crooked house in the background showed us that there was something wrong with the world.
The first innovative developments in Vostell’s work appeared a short time afterwards. He began to experiment with collages, blurred pictures and videos. “Transmigration” (1958) was crucial to his future work; for the first time he integrated a television into a picture. This painting, which is interspersed with elements of collage, has a slit in it. The flickering screen of a television can be seen through the tear in the canvas.
From this time on, TV installations were a regular feature of his work. The late work “Berlinerin” (1994), created four years before the artist’s death, is part of this progression. Like “Transmigration”, it shows Vostell combining apparently irreconcilable elements and materials. On the one hand, we have a classical female torso is made from gleaming bronze; on the other hand, it is accompanied by a commonplace bottle and standard television set.
Vostell founded the “Museo Vostell Malpartida” in 1976 in Spain - the country that inspired him to engage with the art of past epochs. One example of this is his Maja picture (1993), based on the 1789 painting “The Nude Maja” by Francisco de Goya. Goya, who created two different versions of this painting – one showing Maja clothed and one showing her naked – had to answer to the Inquisition for producing a nude painting with no allegorical, mythological or religious connotations. 200 years later, Vostell appropriated this “infamous” image, re-painting the original composition using gold leaf, concrete or ink and laying his own Maja on top in the form of a pen-and-ink drawing.