Wolf Vostell

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Wolf Vostell (14 October 1932 in Leverkusen, Germany – 3 April 1998 in Berlin) was a German painter, sculptor, noise music maker and Happening artist of the second half of the 20th century. Wolf Vostell is considered one of the pioneers of video art, environment-sculptures, Happenings and the Fluxus Movement. Techniques such as blurring and the dé-collage are characteristic of his work, as is embedding objects in concrete.


Early life

Wolf Vostell put his artistic ideas into practice from 1950 onwards. In 1953 he began an apprenticeship as a lithographer and studied at the Academy of Applied Art in Wuppertal. Vostell created his first dé-coll/age in 1954. In 1955/56 he studied at the École Nationale Superieur des Beaux Arts in Paris and in 1957 he attended the Düsseldorf Academy of Arts.


His philosophy was built around the idea that destruction is all around us and it runs through all of the twentieth century. He used the term dé-coll/age (in connection with a plane crash) to refer to the process of tearing down posters, and for the use of mobile fragments of reality. His first Happening, Theater is in the Street, took place in Paris in 1958, and incorporated auto parts and a TV.[1]

In 1958 he took part in the first European Happening in Paris and he produced his first objects with television sets and car parts. He was impressed by the work of Karlheinz Stockhausen, which he encountered in 1964 in the electronic studios of the German radio station WDR, and in 1959 he created his electronic TV dé-coll/ages. It marked the beginning of his dedication to the Fluxus-Movement, which he co-founded in the 1960s.

At more or less the same time, he founded the Vostell Archive. With great fervour and strict consistency, Vostell collected photographs, artistic texts, private correspondence with colleagues such as Nam June Paik, Joseph Beuys, Dick Higgins and many others, as well as press cuttings, invitations to exhibitions and events or books and catalogues which document Vostell's work and that of his contemporaries. In the early 1960s he was one of the activists involved in the Fluxus-Movement Happenings and in video art. In the 1960s and 1970s the Vostell Archive therefore became a comprehensive source of information for authors, publishers and exhibition organisers from around the world. Vostell’s passion for collecting did not diminish in the 1980s and 1990s, and since then his private library with more than 6,000 books has formed part of the Archive. Vostell’s extensive oeuvre is documented in photographic form and makes up an important part of the archive. About 25,000 documents from four decades make the Vostell Archive a treasure of art history. Since 2006 the archive has been housed in the Museo Vostell Malpartida and is available to art historians, journalists and authors.

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