Memories of historical events fade surprisingly quickly. All that remains of them is a shadow, but they are becoming an essential part of human culture, shaping the system of values of country or region.
When we talking about Germany, for instance, one can think of its great writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, famous composer Ludwig van Beethoven, leading philosopher in the history of Western philosophy Immanuel Kant… For someone it can be also a vivid memory of German autobahn with no speed limit.
But Germany of 1920th, when Joseph Beuys was born, was totally different. Between two world wars Germany was under Nazi Regime; inequality and aggression split German society from top to bottom. Beuys who was born in a poor family had to work in a butter factory outside of class time at middle school and joined the army in his youth. During his military service as rear-gunner in a dive-bomber Beuys' plane was shot down and crashed; Beuys himself narrowly escaped death. When the war ended, he decided to devote himself to art. At that time, in the conservative German society, woman needed the written permission from her husband for driving license; she could not even open an account in the bank.
This situation lasted until the 1960s. Deeply damaged by war and Nazi’s terrorism, German conservative society began to change after the Student Movement in 1968. And Joseph Beuys was an artist who embodied the value of Student Movement. For Beuys, art was life. And performance was a way to face and solve social problems. His slender body and frail art works, in fact, were an attempt to cure German, and even more, human society from its own tragedies.
Beuys’ artworks are already in China and will be exhibited in CAFA (Central Academy of Fine Arts) Art Museum. That required a hard work of many people. Director Wang Huangsheng has been constantly contacting and discussing the possibility of this exhibition with the German collector Michael Berger. Yu Xingze, Zong Xian and Lan Jing have helped us a lot when we were in Germany. Curator of this exhibition, professor of Peking University Zhu Qingsheng has just finished a two-year research study of Beuys' artistic career. Professor of CAFA Yi Ying also made an in-depth research study on this issue. I could only express my gratitude in these words to all of you who helped us with the arrangement of this exhibition: to professors Wang Chunchen and Jin Yangping who discussed it with me long since it all starts; Wang Xu and his design studio for publishing a catalog and all design work; all the staff of Goethe Institute who provide us an effective assistance. At last, this exhibition has only been made possible thanks to Mr. Zheng Hao, How Art Museum founder and collector of Beuys’ artworks. I would like to express my sincere gratitude and genuine appreciation to all of you!