Joseph Beuys: Boxkampf für die direkte Demokratie

7 Jul 2017 – 11 Aug 2017

Event times

Monday - Friday, 10:00 - 18:00; Saturday, 10:00 - 16:00

Cost of entry


Waddington Custot

England, United Kingdom


Travel Information

  • Piccadilly, Green Park or Bond Street Tube Station

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Waddington Custot is pleased to present an exhibition which puts in context Joseph Beuys’ 1972 sculpture ‘Boxkampf für die direkte Demokratie’ (Boxing Match for Direct Democracy).


The large, horizontal vitrine houses the two original pairs of boxing gloves, protective helmet and the boxing ring ropes from Beuys’ conceptual ‘farewell action’ at documenta V, a boxing match, between Joseph Beuys (1921–1986) and Abraham David Christian (b.1952). This work will be exhibited in conjunction with the debut UK presentation of the re-mastered archive footage of the boxing match.

For the one hundred days of documenta V in Kassel, from 30 June to 8 October 1972, Beuys established an ‘Information Office for The Organisation for Direct Democracy’, which he manned each day and where he vigorously debated his ideas on social reform. The project was based on Beuys’ 1971 ‘Organisation für direkte Demokratie durch Volksabstimmung (freie Volksinitiative e.V.)’ (The Organisation for Direct Democracy through Referendum (Free People’s Initiative Association)) which, drawing on the theories of philosopher and social reformer, Rudolf Steiner, advocated increased political power for the individual and the goals of cultural freedom and equality. The topics of discussion at the Office were wide-ranging; including educational reform, religion, race relations, women’s rights, atomic energy, economics and the Eastern bloc. Beuys saw this act as an infiltration of the art system in order to shift its prescribed dialogues in other directions.

On 8 October, the final day of documenta V, Beuys staged ‘Boxkampf für die direkte Demokratie’ with Abraham David Christian, a Kassel art student. Christian had challenged Beuys to the fight and stood for ‘representative government’ versus Beuys’ ‘direct democracy’. The ‘Boxkampf für die direkte Demokratie’ took place at the Museum Fridericianum, against a backdrop of Ben Vautier’s ‘Thinking Room’ and with a rowdy crowd of spectators in attendance. Beuys’ student, Anatol Herzfeld, refereed three rounds, after which he declared Beuys the winner, “on points for direct democracy through direct hits.”

The exhibition will feature contemporary documentation lent by the Joseph Beuys archive at the Museum Schloss Moyland, original photographs by Hans Albrecht Lusznat and posters and other paraphernalia related to Beuys’ participation at documenta V.

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Exhibiting artists

Joseph Beuys

Joseph Beuys


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