Wolf Vostell (14 October 1932 – 3 April 1998) was a German painter and sculptor, considered one of the early adopters of video art and installation art and pioneer of Happening and Fluxus. Techniques such as blurring and Dé-coll/age are characteristic of his work, as is embedding objects in concrete and the use of television sets in his works.
Wolf Vostell was born in Leverkusen, Germany, and 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. Wolf Vostell created his first Dé-collage in 1954. In 1955-1956, he studied at the École Nationale Superieur des Beaux Arts in Paris and in 1957 he attended the Düsseldorf Academy of Arts. Wolf Vostell's 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) in 1954 to refer to the process of tearing down posters, and for the use of mobile fragments of reality. Vostell’s working concept of décollage is as a visual force that breaks down outworn values and replaces them with thinking as a function distanced from media.
His first Happening, Theater is in the Street, took place in Paris in 1958, and incorporated auto parts and a TV. 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/age. It marked the beginning of his dedication to the Fluxus Movement, which he co-founded in the early 1960s. Vostell was behind many Happenings in New York, Berlin, Cologne, Wuppertal and Ulm among others. In 1962, he participated in the Festum Fluxorum, an international event in Wiesbaden together with Nam June Paik, George Maciunas. In 1963 Wolf Vostell became a pioneer of Video art and Installation with his work 6 TV Dé-coll/age shown at the Smolin Gallery in New York, and now in the collection of the Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid. The Smolin Gallery sponsored two innovative Wolf Vostell events on TV; the first, Wolf Vostell and Television Decollage, featured visitors to the gallery who were encouraged to create poster art on the walls. In 1967 his Happening Miss Vietnam dealt with the subject of the Vietnam war. In 1968, he founded Labor e.V., a group that was to investigate acoustic and visual events, together with Mauricio Kagel, and others.
Wolf Vostell was the first artist in art history to integrate a television set into a work of art. This installation was created in 1958 under the title The black room is now part of the collection of the art museum Berlinische Galerie in Berlin. Early works with television sets are Transmigracion I-III from 1958 and Elektronischer Dé-coll/age Happening Raum(Electronic Dé-coll/age Happening Room) an Installation from 1968. In 1974, his first major retrospective took place in the ARC 2 at the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, an expanded version of which was shown at the Neue Nationalgalerie, in 1974.
Wolf Vostell’s automobile-concrete-sculptures made from cars and concrete are to be found in Cologne Ruhender Verkehr (Stationary traffic) from 1969, in Berlin Zwei Beton-Cadillacs in Form der nackten Maja (Concrete Cadillacs) from 1987 as well as VOAEX (Viaje de (H)ormigón por la Alta Extremadura) from 1976 in the Museo Vostell Malpartida in Malpartida de Cáceres, Spain and Concrete Traffic from 1970 in Chicago.
Wolf Vostell also gained recognition for his drawings and objects, such as images of American B-52 bombers, published under the rubric "capitalist realism" and as a result of his inclusion of television sets with his paintings. Nam June Paik and Wolf Vostell were both participants in the Fluxus movement and the work of both artists involved a critique of the fetishization of television and the culture of consumption. The catalogue raisonné of his screen prints and posters has been published in the Nouvelles de l'estampe by Françoise Woimant and Anne Moeglin-Delcroix in 1982.
In 1992, the town of Cologne honoured Wolf Vostell with a major retrospective of his work. His pieces were distributed over 6 exhibition venues: Stadtmuseum Köln, Kunsthalle Köln, Rheinisches Landesmuseum Bonn, Kunsthalle Mannheim, Schloss Morsbroich Leverkusen and Städtisches Museum Mülheim / Ruhr. Under the artistic direction of David Vostell, the documentary Vostell 60 - Rückblick 92 (Vostell 60 - Review 92) was created.
Wolf Vostells grave is at the Cementerio Civil de la Almudena in Madrid.
Wolf Vostell Archive
At more or less the same time, he founded the Vostell Archive. With great fervour and strict consistency, Wolf Vostell collected photographs, artistic texts, private correspondence with colleagues such as Nam June Paik, Allan Kaprow, Dick Higgins and many others, as well as press cuttings, invitations to exhibitions and events or books and catalogues which document wolf Vostell's work and that of his contemporaries. His private library with more than 6000 books has formed part of the Archive. Wolf Vostell’s extensive oeuvre is documented in photographic form and makes up part of the archive. About 25000 documents from four decades make the Vostell Archive a treasure of art history. Since 2005 the archive has been housed in the Museo Vostell Malpartida and is available to art historians, journalists and authors.
- Korea Massaker, 1953, Museum Fluxus+, Potsdam
- Zyklus Guadalupe, 1958
- Das schwarze Zimmer (The black room), 1958, Installation with TV, Berlinische Galerie, Berlin
- Transmigracion, I-III, 1958, Canvas with TV
- Das Theater ist auf der Straße (The theater is on the street), 1958, Happening
- Rue de Buci, 1960, Dé-coll/age
- Ihr Kandidat, 1961, Dé-coll/age, Haus der Geschichte der Bundesrepublik Deutschland
- Coca-Cola, 1961, Dé-coll/age, Ludwig Museum, Köln
- Cityrama, 1961, Happening
- Wochenspiegel Beatles, 1961, Dé-coll/age, Saarlandmuseum
- Marilyn Monroe, 1962, Dé-coll/age
- Zyklus Kleenex, 1962
- Marilyn Monroe Idolo, 1963, Dé-coll/age
- 6 TV Dé-coll/age, 1963, Installation, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid
- Sun in your head, 1963, Video
- You, 1964, Installation
- Goethe Heute, 1967, Sprengel Museum Hannover
- Hommage an Henry Ford und Jaqueline Kennedy, 1967, Installation, Ludwig Museum
- Elektronischer Dé-coll/age Happening Raum, 1968, Installation with TV, Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin
- Hours of fun, 1968, Dé-coll/age, Berlinische Galerie, Berlin
- Miss America, 1968, Ludwig Museum
- Jetzt sind die Deutschen wieder Nr. 1 in Europa, 1968, Germanisches Nationalmuseum
- B-52 - statt Bomben, 1968
- Ruhender Verkehr, 1969, Hohenzollernring, Köln
- Concrete Traffic, 1970, Chicago
- Heuschrecken, 1970 Museum Moderner Kunst, MUMOK, Vienna
- Auto-Fieber, 1973, Installation, Museo Vostell Malpartida
- VOAEX, 1976
- Die Winde, 1981
- Die Steine, 1981
- Taxistand, 1983
- Mythos Berlin, 1987, Museo Vostell Malpartida
- Zwei Beton-Cadillacs in Form der nackten Maja, 1987, Rathenauplatz, Berlin
- La Tortuga, 1988, Marl
- Schule von Athen, 1988, LVR-LandesMuseum, Bonn
- Tauromaquia mit BMW-Teil, 1988
- Zyklus Der Fall der Berliner Mauer, 1989
- 9.November 1989, 1989
- Berlin, 1990
- Le Choc, 1990
- Auto-TV-Hochzeit, 1991, Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie, Karlsruhe
- Zyklus Weinende, Hommage an Anne Frank, 1992
- Arc de Triomphe N°1, 1993
- A-Z, 1995, Museo Extremeño e Iberoamericano de Arte Contemporáneo, Badajoz
- Jesus mit TV Herz, 1996
- Shoah, 1997
- Ritz, 1998
- 1966: Bilder, Verwischungen, Happening-Notationen 1961-1966, Kölnischer Kunstverein, Köln.
- 1970: happening & fluxus, Kölnischer Kunstverein, Köln.
- 1974: Retrospektive, Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin.
- 1974: Retrospektive, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris.
- 1977: documenta 6, Kassel.
- 1978: Bilder 1959–1974, Museo de Arte Contemporaneo, Madrid.
- 1980: Bilder 1959–1979, Kunstverein Braunschweig.
- 1980: Fluxus Zug in Nordrhein-Westfalen.
- 1982: Die gesamte Druckgrafik, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris.
- 1992: Retrospektive, Rheinisches Landesmuseum Bonn, Josef-Haubrich-Kunsthalle, Köln, Kölnisches Stadtmuseum, Museum Morsbroich Leverkusen, Städtische Kunsthalle Mannheim.
- 2006: Die gesamte Druckgrafik, Kunsthalle Bremen.
- 2007: Wolf Vostell My art is the eternal resistance to death, Rheinisches Landesmuseum, Bonn.
- 2008: Wolf Vostell My art is the eternal resistance to death, Carré d´Art-Musée d´Art Contemporain de Nîmes.
- 2010: Das Theater ist auf der Straße, Die Happenings von Wolf Vostell. Museum Morsbroich, Leverkusen.
- 2010: Wolf Vostell Artista Europeo, Fondazione Mudima, Milano.
- 2014: Beuys Brock Vostell. Aktion Demonstration Partizipation 1949-1983. ZKM - Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie, Karlsruhe.
- „Art is Life, Life is Art.“ 1961
- „I declare peace as the greatest work of art.“ 1979
- „Every human being is a work of art.“ 1985
- Wolf Vostell. Leben = Kunst = Leben, Kunstgalerie Gera, E.A. Seemann, 1993, ISBN 3-363-00605-5
- 1982: Premio Pablo Igesias, Madrid
- 1990: Medaille de Paris
- 1996: Berliner Bär (B.Z.-Kulturpreis), Berlin
- 1997: Hannah Höch Preis, Berlin
- 1998: Medalla de Extremadura, Spain
- 1998: Ehrenbürger von Malpartida de Caceres, Spain
- 2001: Wolf Vostell Strasse, Leverkusen
- 2014: Internationaler Menschenrechtspreis, Dr. Rainer Hildebrandt-Medaille, Berlin