New York Subway Poster

[New York Subway Poster]

  • 1983
  • Lithograph and silkscreen on machine-made wove
    28 x 71 cm
  • Edition: 120 plus 12 A. P. plus 6 P. P., plus 5 H. C. plus a few a. p., signed and numbered
  • Publisher: Strother/Elwood Arts, New York
  • Catalogue Raisonné No.: 470

In the early 1970s, Beuys began promoting an ‘expanded concept of art’. Moving well beyond the limits of traditional art media, he sought to validate all forms of creativity, which he presented as a vital social resource. In this connection, he coined the phrases ‘Creativity = Social Wealth’ and ‘Creativity = Capital’, using these to publicise his view that art was more significant than money as an engine of social transformation.1

With this multiple, Beuys sought to relay his message to commuters in the New York subway, an audience unlikely to be reached through his other artistic projects. Commissioned by the artists collective Group Material, as one of 120 posters placed in subway trains,2 Beuy’s work is dominated by the slogan ‘Creativity = Capital,’ printed in red block letters. A detail from one of his blackboard diagrams, which he used to explain his social ideas, serves as a backdrop to this text. While the details of the diagram are difficult to decipher, the work’s slogan makes its message abundantly clear.

Beuys often described his multiples as ‘vehicles’ for placing his ideas in circulation, a function that was literally embodied by the subway car. Assuming the form of an advertisement, New York Subway Poster conveyed a rare non-commercial message to commuters.

  1. For a thorough reconstruction of the development of Beuys’s Erweitertete Kunstbegriff and its connection to his thoughts on society and the economy, see Johannes Stüttgen, ‘Der Kapitalbegriff bei Joseph Beuys,’ in Christel Raussmüller-Sauer (ed.), Joseph Beuys und das Kapital (Schaffhausen: Hallen für neue Kunst, 1988), 102. 

  2. For more on this project, see Glenn O’Brian, ‘Group Material,’ Artforum, Volume XXII Number 4, (December 1983), 80-81. 

    Photo 1

    © Mario Gastinger, Photographics, Munich

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