The Kunstmuseum Basel in Switzerland has received a gift of works by Joseph Beuys—11 glass cases containing small sculptures and relics of the artist’s oeuvre. The collection was previously on loan from collector and Maja Oeri and her sons, Hans Emanuel and Melchior, and went on permanent display Wednesday, the 100th anniversary of Beuys’s birth.
By the end of the 1960s, the prolific German artist had adopted display cases as a key part of his practice. With glass glazed to resemble museum showcases, they hold objects of political or social importance, many of which were items associated with Beuys’s past performances.
Produced between 1949 and 1984, the 11 display cases now owned by the Kunstmuseum act as histories of what he called “social sculpture,” or staged interactions which urged participants to incorporate social concerns into their everyday lives. Beuys was a dedicated advocate of art as a force for social change, once stating that “it was simply impossible for human beings to bring their creative intention into the world any other way than through action.”
The Kunstmuseum was an early champion of Beuys, staging one of his first major museum shows in 1969. Since then, the museum has expanded its holding of the artist’s drawings and sculptural works. The 11 cases join a group which had been exhibited together since 1980, including two installations, titled Hearth I and Hearth II, as well as the 1965 felt sculpture Snowfall, which was owned by the Emanuel Hoffmann Foundation.
Josef Helfenstein, director of the Kunstmuseum Basel, said in a statement, “This great gift is another highlight in the long history of patronage by Dr. h.c. Maja Oeri and her family,” adding that it was a “wonderful present just in time for Beuys’s 100th birthday.”