Joseph Beuys: From the Secret Block to Rosc

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Hugh Lane Gallery is marking the centenary of the birth of Joseph Beuys (1921-1986) with a focused exhibition looking at the artist’s relationship to Ireland. The German artist was hugely influential on contemporary art in the second half of the twentieth century. He was innovative in his teaching, in his engagement with social and environmental concerns and his symbolic use of materials. He had a particular interest in the Celtic world and saw Irish myth, literature and landscapes as sources for cultural renewal and healing.

At the centre of this exhibition are the three blackboards that Beuys created in the Hugh Lane Gallery in October 1974. Beuys wrote and drew on the blackboards while giving a lecture during the exhibition of his drawings, The Secret Block for a Secret Person in Ireland. The Secret Block exhibition also travelled to the Ulster Museum, Belfast, and Beuys gave similar lectures across the island of Ireland, provoking excitement, inspiration, denunciation and bewilderment in turn.

In our exhibition in 2021, alongside the blackboards you can discover photographs by Caroline Tisdall of Beuys’s visit to Ireland in 1974. Many of these have not been exhibited or published before. We also have on view Bill Porter's photographs of the lecture at the Ulster Museum.

Beuys remained an inspirational force in Ireland throughout the 1970s and 80s. His work was included in the 1977 Rosc exhibition at the Hugh Lane Gallery, and in Rosc ’84 at the Guinness Visitor Centre.

View a conversation with Professor Richard Demarco, exploring Beuys's legacy, on our YouTube channel.

See beuys2021.de for details of global events marking the centenary of Beuys's birth.

Hugh Lane Gallery will mark the centenary of the birth of Joseph Beuys (1921-1986) with a focused exhibition looking back on the artist’s relationship to Ireland. The German artist was hugely influential on contemporary art in the second half of the twentieth century, though his teaching, his engagement with social and political concerns and his symbolic use of materials. He had a particular interest in the Celtic world and in Irish myth, literature and landscapes as sources for cultural renewal and healing.

At the centre of this exhibition are the three blackboards that Beuys created in the Hugh Lane Gallery in October 1974. Beuys wrote and drew on the blackboards while giving a lecture during the exhibition of his drawings, The Secret Block for a Secret Person in Ireland. The Secret Block exhibition also travelled to the Ulster Museum, Belfast, and Beuys gave similar lectures across the island of Ireland, provoking excitement, inspiration, denunciation and bewilderment in turn. Alongside the blackboards, Hugh Lane Gallery exhibition will feature photographs by Caroline Tisdall that further illuminate Beuys’ visit to Ireland in 1974.

Beuys remained an inspirational force in Ireland throughout the 1970s and 80s. His work was included in the 1977 Rosc exhibition at the Hugh Lane Gallery, and in Rosc ’84 at the Guinness Visitor Centre. This exhibition will include archive material that reflects this ongoing relationship.