At the age of 82: conceptual artist Hans-Peter Feldmann died

At 82 years old
Concept artist Hans-Peter Feldmann died

The artist Hans Peter Feldmann is dead. Photo

© picture alliance / dpa

The Guggenheim New York honored him, and he had major exhibitions in Germany and abroad. Nevertheless, Hans-Peter Feldmann remained modest – with his bizarre and subversive works he was a secret star of the scene.

Hans-Peter Feldmann did not sign his works – at most he bit into them. This is what happened when an art lover once asked the eccentric Düsseldorf artist for a dedication in a book. Feldmann was the rascal in art and a secret star of the scene. But he always remained humble.

The Düsseldorf conceptual artist has now died at the age of 82, as the director of the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, Gregor Jansen, confirmed on Sunday, citing the family. Accordingly, Feldmann died on May 26th.

He was born in Hilden near Düsseldorf in 1941 and studied painting at the art school in Linz. His relationship to art was quite idiosyncratic: in 1980 he destroyed a large part of his work and opened a souvenir shop with lots of knick-knacks in Düsseldorf.

He held up a mirror to the art market

Feldmann is known, among other things, for a six meter high pink David sculpture, loosely based on Michelangelo. In 2009 he impressed at the Venice Biennale with his “Schattenspiel” – an installation of small toys and everyday objects that rotate on platforms and create a shadow play.

The reserved man with the white-grey hair usually stayed in the background, but he held up a mirror to the art scene with his subversively bizarre actions. He mocked the art market by painting George Washington’s red clown nose on the one dollar bill. Red noses have also been found in classic portraits. “Art is that simple,” Feldmann once said.

The Documenta participant did not want to be called an artist. “I don’t really like that,” he once said. “Art is there like the weather, like sex,” he said. “How many people are running around with great hairstyles – that’s art!”

Subversive humor distinguished him

Feldmann made the unspectacular exciting. He draped the contents of women’s handbags in glass showcases: keys, business cards, make-up, toiletries and bank cards became art objects. Feldmann had paid women 500 euros to sell him their handbags.

Feldmann’s passion was collecting. He found art and kitsch for his curious installations at flea markets and knick-knack shops. Whether it’s a last greeting to the painter Sigmar Polke, photos of 101 friends and acquaintances from babies to old people, high-heeled shoes with nails on the inner soles – Feldmann’s works are characterized by subversive humor.

Nothing worked for him without a deeper meaning and humor. He designed a wooden hiker for the flagship store of the luxury bag manufacturer Louis Vuitton on Düsseldorf’s Königsallee – made of cheap material. But Feldmann also designed a public toilet in Münster or gave a Biedermeier couple squinting eyes in a picture.

“Art should not be sacred – on the contrary. Art is a very banal everyday thing for everyone,” was Feldmann’s motto. When he received a $100,000 award in New York, he pinned the dollar bills to the walls of the Guggenheim Museum.


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