Mahnmal für die Toten beider Weltkriege / Memorial for the Dead of the World Wars

Joseph Beuys’s memorial is one of his earliest and largest works, as well as one of few artworks that have been preserved in their original context. The installation includes the “resurrection symbol” inside of the church tower and the portal, both of which were designed by Beuys himself. The tower was built around 1200 and is the only surviving structure from the Romanesque church that was dedicated to Saint Maurice. The church burnt down in 1891. In 1959, the borough of Büderich decided to transform the tower into a memorial for those who died in the world wars. They commissioned four artists for designs and decided on a proposal from the still unknown master student of Ewald Mataré.
In his studio in Kleve, Joseph Beuys constructed an oak gate with iron fittings that resemble archaic symbols, but could also be seen as weapons or other tools. On one leaf of the gate, he engraved the names of the 220 citizens of Büderich that died in the wars. Inside of the tower, the “resurrection symbol” is mounted on iron beams on the left side, rather than the front wall. This abstract element can be seen simultaneously as a crucified figure and as a figure ascending to heaven. There is also a sort of halo around its head, which makes associations with Christ even clearer.
A large round iron disk was embedded in the figure’s chest; a rod was used to connect this disc to the iron suspension system from above its head. The originally Christian idea that a connection to the universal transcendent space can be created through pain can be found repeatedly in the artist’s later work.

Further reading:
Holger Brülls, Kein Kreuz: Das Büdericher Mahnmal für die Toten der Weltkriege von Joseph Beuys, Meerbusch 1995, ISBN 3-9804756-0-3
Margot Klütsch, Meerbuscher Kunstwege, Düsseldorf 2010, ISBN 978-3-89978-132-8


Joseph Beuys

1921
geboren in Krefeld; 1986 gestorben in Düsseldorf.
1927–1932
Volksschule, anschließend Gymnasium in Kleve.
1941
Freiwillige Meldung zur Luftwaffe im 2. Weltkrieg.
1944
Absturz bei einem Einsatz auf der Krim, bei dem Beuys verletzt wurde. Ende des Jahres erneuter Kriegseinsatz, diesmal an der Westfront.
1945
Kriegsgefangenschaft. Rückkehr nach Kleve, wo er sich der örtlichen Künstlergruppe anschloss.
1946
Immatrikulation an der Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf.
1951
Meisterschüler bei Ewald Mataré.
1953
Erste Einzelausstellung im Haus der Brüder Hans und Franz Joseph van der Grinten in Kranenburg (Niederrhein).
1954
Eigenes Atelier in Düsseldorf-Heerdt, das er bis Ende 1958 nutzen konnte.
1957
Umzug nach Kleve.
1961
Unter Beibehaltung seines Klever Ateliers am Tiergarten Umzug nach Düsseldorf. Professur an der Kunstakademie Düsseldorf.
1964
Teilnahme an der documenta 3 in Kassel.
1972
Seine fristlose Entlassung an der Kunstakademie Düsseldorf erregte großes Aufsehen. Teilnahme an der documenta 5.
1974
Gastprofessur an der Hochschule für bildende Künste in Hamburg. USA-Reise.
1976
Teilnahme an der Biennale von Venedig.
1977
Teilnahme an der documenta 6 in Kassel.
1979
Retrospektive im Guggenheim-Museum New York.
1982
Teilnahme an der documenta 7.
1986
Wilhelm-Lehmbruck-Preis der Stadt Duisburg.

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Location
Meerbusch
Meerbusch-Büderich, Dorfstraße 50–52
Artist
Joseph Beuys
Year
1959
Size
Resurrection symbol: 200 x 300 cm, gate: 300 x 300 cm
Material
Oak, iron
Type
Monuments / memorials
#nrwskulptur