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Joseph Beuys, Andy Warhol, Dan Flavin: The Highlights, plus our Learning & Discussion Series Debut

On 11th February, 2023, Artscope hosted one of the most successful events to date. Our guided tour selected for this week featured work from artists of the 1960s: Joseph Beuys, Andy Warhol and Dan Flavin, but most excitingly, Artscope launched the newest addition to our private events programme, The Learning and Discussion Series. Our group enjoyed coffee and champagne whilst we engaged in a lecture and conversation around the decade that featured our artists from the tour that followed.


A group photo following the Learning and Discussion Series: The 1960s. Photo by Kate Fensterstock.
A group photo following the Learning and Discussion Series: The 1960s. Photo by Kate Fensterstock.

The primary goal of Artscope International is to ensure modern and contemporary art education and experiences for an enthusiastic audience, which includes novices and experts alike. In hosting our guided museum and gallery tours of art around London, it became clear there was more to be offered in order to support a full immersion in the art we saw, and open the door that much wider to a deeper and more committed appreciation. Our Learning & Discussion Series is specifically designed to provide a salon-style lecture and presentation, stimulate conversation, and make introductions between likeminded participants who might foster an exciting and sociable network.


Our debut session surrounded the 1960s decade, both in the US and in Europe, in order to consider the climate experienced by the three artists featured in our tour. Our goal was to understand how the social, political and economic context of this time frame would inspire the practices of Jospeh Beuys, Andy Warhol and Dan Flavin, a useful exercise when studying the art of any decade.

View of the tour group walking to Thaddaeus Ropac. Photo by Kate Fensterstock.
View of the tour group walking to Thaddaeus Ropac. Photo by Kate Fensterstock.

Kate Fensterstock led the presentation on several key areas for focus: the history of the 1960s in the USA and Europe, the social, political and economic currents that would run through the effects of this history, the wider practices of all three artists, and a closer look at the exhibitions themselves and the more specific aspects of each artists work within each gallery. Equipped with this knowledge, our guests were prepared for more in-depth analysis and critique that would enrich their experience of the art now and in future.

View of the gallery at Thaddaeus Ropac, featuring the Joseph Beuys drawings. Photo by Kate Fensterstock.
View of the gallery at Thaddaeus Ropac, featuring the Joseph Beuys drawings. Photo by Kate Fensterstock.

The first visit was to Thaddaeus Ropac, currently showing "40 Years of Drawing" from Joseph Beuys, a prolific German teacher, philosopher, sculptor and performance artist. Described as "bridges, not studies", Beuys's drawings were intrinsic to every element of his practice. He saw drawing as what helped him creatively massage his thoughts and perceptions, in order to design and pursue new modes of expression and communication. The exhibition features over 100 drawings from the artist, from the post-war years up almost up until his death in 1986. Such a retrospective provided a spectrum of work whereby our group was able to trace key moments in his narrative, and specifically draw out the significance of the 1960s decade.

View of the Artscope tour group in front of a Joseph Beuys blackboard at Thaddaeus Ropac. Photo by Kate Fensterstock.
View of the Artscope tour group in front of a Joseph Beuys blackboard at Thaddaeus Ropac. Photo by Kate Fensterstock.

Elements of historical context, philosophical debate and the cultural response such as the move toward performance were identified based on the work in the show. Beuys work would become increasingly political, an important reflection of the discomfort, trauma and frustration experienced particularly in Germany following the Second World War. Philosophical ideals took shape from this experience, to include Beuys fervent commitment to epistemology which was reflected in the blackboards on display that acted as a channel for teaching. These themes would culminate in Beuys performance work of the late 60s and 70s, where the plan for these "happenings" began to take shape in the drawings we saw from this specific timeframe. Our previous research acted as a foundation for identifying and appreciating how powerful the medium of drawing would be to this artist. Lastly, a fascinating room of Antony Gormley drawings, curated by the artist himself, would reinforce aspects of Beuys artistic approach that in turn would inspire an artist of our time and continue the conversation onward. A hugely rich and informative exhibition made even more impactful by our prior investigations.

View of Shapero Modern's "Andy Warhol: 20 Under 20" exhibition. Photo by Kate Fensterstock.
View of Shapero Modern's "Andy Warhol: 20 Under 20" exhibition. Photo by Kate Fensterstock.

Around the corner at Shapero Modern, we visited Andy Warhol: 20 Under 20, selection of twenty Warhol works available for less than £20,000 each. Shapero Modern's mission statement for this exhibition is to reassure aspiring collectors that it is possible to own a fantastic example of Andy Warhol's oeuvre, without spending millions as one might assume. Themes surrounding Warhol's practice in response to the 1960s were key during our visit, but were also directly linked to aspects of art collecting and market behaviour that still apply today.


Andy Warhol, "Electric Chair", 1971. Photo by Kate Fensterstock.
Andy Warhol, "Electric Chair", 1971. Photo by Kate Fensterstock.

The prints on display at Shapero Modern included work largely from the 1950s and 1970s, a great opportunity to compare and contrast as we had done at Joseph Beuys. Warhol's work from the 1950's included hand-colouring, an aspect of his work as a commercial artist. The detail and skill involved in this technique is evident, but would additionally provide a stark contrast to the elements of his practice to be adopted amidst the 1960s decade and the climate that engulfed America. Warhol's work would divert from the artist's hand to assistants in The Factory, and printmaking and mass-production of artwork would largely replace the individualism of painting. A notable inclusion in the 20 Under 20 show was "Electric Chair", a screen print form 1971 that referenced the Death and Disaster series from the 1960s. This series focused on America's obsession and fascination with mortality and violence, reflecting on the mass-media circulation of imagery that had such a grip on American culture and alerting society to the dark and vile reality that disturbing content provides entertainment. The electric chair image specifically alludes to the political debate over the death penalty in America at the time, and brings to mind the war in Vietnam and the brutality of the Rodney King attack. As we engaged with these key components of the work on display, we had the opportunity to draw valuable conclusions on the accessibility of the work as emerging collectors, whilst also recognising and appreciating Warhol's subtle nod to the constructs that put worth on commercial prospects- a leading postmodern philosophical concept that continues to resonate.


Andy Warhol hand-coloured prints from the 1950s at Shapero Modern. Photo by Kate Fensterstock.
Andy Warhol hand-coloured prints from the 1950s at Shapero Modern. Photo by Kate Fensterstock.

Lastly, we finished at David Zwirner, where we visited Dan Flavin's fluorescent light tubes. Minimalism largely dominated art practice in the 1960s, confirming a sharp retreat from the gestural and organic approach to Abstract Expressionism of the 1950s. Flavin's use of commercially-available fluorescent light material was a reflection of the industrial and technological material development of the decade, but offered an even more innovative approach to medium. Flavin, along with other artists of the Light and Space movement, began to explore how light and colour could be a material itself, spilling and reflecting and blending within the space where it exists.

Kate and her Artscope guests at David Zwirner. Photo by Luciana Rodarte.
Kate and her Artscope guests at David Zwirner. Photo by Luciana Rodarte.

Architecture became the canvas, and the arrangement of the tubes in his "situations" as they were described, determined the entirety of the work as it threw light, colour and shadow across the site. Furthermore, the question of site specificity becomes crucial, as according to Flavin, the artwork becomes different if the tubes are not positioned in the same way, and certainly become different based on the gallery in which it is displayed. We particularly appreciated the way the light glowed through the windows of Zwirner and spilled onto Grafton Street, making the experience of this work unique to the location and never to be the same once it moves from here.

View between two galleries at David Zwirner. Photo by Kate Fensterstock.
View between two galleries at David Zwirner. Photo by Kate Fensterstock.

Exterior view of David Zwirner exhibiting the Dan Flavin fluorescent works. Image courtesy of the David Zwirner Instagram.
Exterior view of David Zwirner exhibiting the Dan Flavin fluorescent works. Image courtesy of the David Zwirner Instagram.

For more information on the artists and galleries in this feature, or on our private programmes that now include our Learning and Discussion Series, please email kate@artscopeintl.com.


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