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‘Bad Beuys go to Africa’

Radical art group pretends to smuggle sculpture to Tanzania in publicity stunt to promote restitution of colonial artefacts

In a wild series of events, the artist collective Frankfurter Hauptschule professed on 18th October to have stolen the sculpture by Joseph Beuys from an exhibition in Oberhausen, then smuggled it to Tanzania and presented to the country’s ethnological museum, Iringa Boma. The group claimed this was as a "symbolischer Akt der Restitution in die ehemalige deutsche Kolonie". A video on their Youtube channel shows the extraordinary journey of the 1985 workCapri Battery from its stand in the German museum to the airport for a long-haul flight, followed by several buses to its eventual position in the Tanzanian museum. It is packed with clichés showing typical Western tourists in Africa. Commentary is divided; some see the video as provocative satire, while others criticize the self-righteous tone of the video as having the opposite effect, highlighting the artists’ privilege and reinforcing colonial tropes.

In the following week it became clear, after a panicked reaction by the Oberhausen museum (reporting the sculpture stolen) and a frenzied media response, that the genuine sculpture was in fact safe and sound in the museum’s storage facilities. Spiegel reported on the revelation.

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