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Economy: Multiples


Walker Art Center



Institution Walker Art Center
Joseph Beuys produced Filzanzug (Felt Suit) not just once but a hundred times. He called editions of the same work of art "multiples." This challenged the idea of art as a unique product to be purchased by a limited number of people who could afford it. By producing more than one version of Felt Suit, Beuys made his work available to the many people who couldn't afford a unique painting or sculpture.

The artist viewed multiples as "vehicles of information" that were vitally important to spreading his ideas. He believed that people who owned multiples were staying in touch with him and thus could extend the life of his own concepts. He also envisioned his multiples serving as stand-ins for himself and as objects that would always spark debate, regardless of where they traveled.

Beuys had strong opinions about the role of money in society. In an interview for the publication Art Papier in 1979, he said, "Money and state are the only oppressive powers in the present time . . . . There is no other power and as long as people go to vote and go to the polling booths and say yes, yes, yes, to this system, this system will survive. And so we go radically another way and push against this. Radically." While Beuys needed money to live and to support his ideas, the capitalist system of profit troubled him. In his view, money should serve to allow creative living, not as an objective in and of itself. He spoke of his art as production, and emphasized that money from the multiples he created helped support causes such as the Free International University, which he founded.

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Type: Commentary, online content
Source: Economy: Multiples, from the website Global Positioning: Exploring Contemporary World Art, 2003.
Rights: Copyright 2003 Walker Art Center
Added to Site: March 1, 2009