American Hare Sugar

[Amerikanischer Hasenzucker]

  • 1974
  • Sugar cubes, stamped, in cardboard box with cotton wool
    7 x 11 x 9 cm
  • Edition: 40 signed, numbered and titled
  • Publisher: Edition Staeck, Heidelberg
  • Catalogue Raisonné No.: 96B

In January 1974, Beuys made his first visit to the United States, a ten day journey with stops in New York, Chicago and Minneapolis. During his stay in Minneapolis, he came upon a brand of sugar, on whose packaging a hare was depicted. Forty small packets of this sugar became the basis for American Hare Sugar.1

Beuys often included animals in his art, with the hare receiving special prominence. He invested the behaviour of animals with symbolic significance and saw in their instinctual behaviours potential models for human emulation. The hare unites not only special natural skills such as agility and speed, but also symbolic meanings, as Beuys explained: ‘The hare is the element of motion, of action, which transforms the rigid concept of art. Then a resident of Eurasia who crosses all borders and can even cope with the Berlin Wall. This is associated with the idea of the great unity proceeding from Central Europe. The hare is an ancient Germanic symbol: Its Easter egg signifies new beginning, spring, resurrection. As an alchemistic symbol, it stands for transformation.’2

Sugar also possessed a symbolic significance for Beuys. Like other sweet substances, he valued it as a bearer of spiritual warmth, a form of energy he viewed as the catalyst for all forms of change and evolution.

  1. On the origins of American Hare Sugar, see Joan Rothfuss (ed.), Bits & pieces put together to present a semblance of a whole (Minneapolis: Walker Art Center, 2005). For further reading on Beuys’ visit to the U.S.A., see Carin Kuoni (ed.) Energy Plan for the Western Man (New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 1990); and Klaus Staeck and Gerhard Steidl (eds.), Beuys in America (Heidelberg: Edition Staeck, Göttingen: Steidl, 1997). 

  2. Joseph Beuys in a conversation with Veit Möller, in Abendzeitung, 15.11.1985,. cited in Jörg Schellmann (ed.), Joseph Beuys. Die Multiples (Munich, New York: Edition Schellmann, 1997), 439. See also Wouter Kotte, ‘Die Funktionalität des Hasen bei Beuys,’ in Joseph Beuys: Zeichnungen, Skulptur, Objekte, Multiples (Cologne: Galerie Heinz Holtmann, 1989), 13. 

    Photo 1

    © Mario Gastinger, Photographics, Munich

    Katalog Museum Mönchengladbach 1967