Door 14: Franz Erhard Walther

Artists, designers or architects often have to stand test of time. In the case of Franz Erhard Walther it was not an easy task as he was kicked out of university and not taken seriously by his contemporaries. Only in the last fifteen years an increasing interest in his oeuvre arose peaking in winning the Golden Lion at the 2017 Venice Biennale.

Born in 1938 in Fulda, he initially started to work in his family's bakery and went to evening drawing courses by Rudolf Kubesch in his hometown. After an initial try the year before he got into Werkkunstschule Offenbach in 1958 and started to be active in a young artist's circle with Verena Pfisterer and Johannes Kirsch. From 1959 to 1961 he studied at the Städelschule in Frankfurt, where he got kicked out. After that he studied at the Kunstakademie under Karl Otto Götz with fellow students like Gerhard Richter or Sigmar Polke, which did not accept his artistic approach.

From 1967 until 1971 he lived in New YorkMarcel Duchamp got interested in his work and wanted to meet him, but it never happened as Duchamp died in 1968. Franz Erhard Walther showed in 1969 his 1. Werksatz (workset) at the Museum of Modern Art. In the same year he was also part of Harald Szeeman's seminal exhibition Live in your head: When Attitude becomes Form at the Kunsthalle Bern, which changed the understanding of exhibitions fundamentally.

In 1971 he got appointed professor at the Hochschule für bildende Künste Hamburg and taught there until 2005. Among his pupils were Martin KippenbergerJonathan MeeseChristian JakowskiRebecca Horn or Santiago Sierra.

His approach, from the start, involved the action of the viewer, physically or mentally, which set his contemporaries off. Also at that time the art zeitgeist distanced itself from objects through movements like fluxus and happenings. So his sculptures, whether woven fabrics kept in basic, non-fashion colors, or metal plates, stood in complete contrast. He got inspired through Jackson Pollock and Informalism to question the classic understanding of sculpture and include time and action in his works.