Beuys at the PalaisPopulaire
Early works from the Deutsche Bank Collection

Joseph Beuys would have turned 100 on May 12 of this year. The draftsman, sculptor, action artist, party founder, and university lecturer was revered and more controversial than virtually any other German artist of the postwar period. And like almost no other artist of his era, he inspired and influenced subsequent generations. To mark this anniversary, the PalaisPopulaire is presenting a small selection of prints related to works from the 1950s. The beginnings of the Deutsche Bank Collection are closely linked to Joseph Beuys. It was not only the idea of art as cultural capital, meant to benefit all of the company’s employees at the workplace, that was inspired by Joseph Beuys’ thinking. Back in the late 1970s, two members of the Board of Managing Directors, Hermann J. Abs and Herbert Zapp, initiated the purchase of 57 early Beuys drawings for the Deutsche Bank Collection, which were acquired by the bank together with Kunstmuseum Düsseldorf. During this period, the sculpture Bergkönig (Mountain King, 1958-1961) was also purchased for the corporate collection. Today, it is on permanent loan to the Städel Museum, along with other Beuys works from the Deutsche Bank Collection. In the PalaisPopulaire’s opening exhibitionThe World on Paper (2018), which showcased works on paper from the Deutsche Bank Collection, a separate room was dedicated to Beuys drawings.  

In the early works exhibited at the PalaisPopulaire, the artist’s engagement with landscape, nature, and the human body is already clearly evident. For Beuys, drawing was, in his own words, “the extension of a thought.” At the beginning of his artistic development, as a student at the Düsseldorf Art Academy, he had concentrated almost exclusively on the medium of paper. His early prints already show his preoccupation with warmth and coldness as categories of thought and sensation, the teachings of the anthroposophist Rudolf Steiner, as well as Western and Eastern mysticism. Ultimately, all of these influences led him to his idea of an expanded, more democratic concept of art.

Starting in the late 1940s, animals played an important role in Beuys’ work. Bees, rabbits, deer, elk, and swans are particularly common in his art, but other animals, including horses and coyotes, also appear. Beuys, who had been interested in mythology since childhood, saw his depictions of animals as having multiple meanings. The stag that appears in this series, for example, can take on the function of a spiritual guide in his work, as it does in Celtic mythology. In Beuys’ work, the animal world can serve as a source of inspiration and help people overcome materialism—a process he wanted to promote with his art.

A selection of multiples, shown in cooperation with ShopPopulaire, references Beuys’ central concern of democratizing art. The presentation will be accompanied by a series of events. On August 26, Friedhelm Hütte, the head of Deutsche Bank’s art department, will talk about Beuys + Capital; on November 10 , art scholar Magdalena Holzhey will give insight into the subject of Beuys + Drawing; and on November 18, renowned gallery owner and curator René Block will introduce the topic of Beuys + Editions.

A very special initiative is being launched by the Goethe-Institut in Izmir, which is organizing workshops, screenings, concerts, and exhibitions to mark the 100th anniversary of Beuys's birth. The events will show how relevant Beuys still is today. One of the highlights is the virtual reissue of an exhibition from the Deutsche Bank Collection, Joseph Beuys and His Students, which toured Europe and Latin America in the late 2000s and was on view at the Sabancı Museum in Istanbul in 2009. Among the artists featured are Jörg Immendorff, Anselm Kiefer, Imi Knoebel, Inge Mahn, Blinky Palermo, and Katharina Sieverding.

If you want to get an overview of all of the exhibitions, events, and workshops commemorating the Beuys anniversary, visit the website On the site, you will find all the dates, from the major Beuys exhibition at Düsseldorf’s K20 and all the shows in the Rhineland, to the events in Melbourne and Santiago de Chile—a worldwide round trip through the Beuys cosmos.

Joseph Beuys – Early Works
Deutsche Bank Collection

Until the end of 2021
PalaisPopulaire, Berlin