Joseph Beuys “Fettecke (Fat Corner)” (1982) / janitorial staff

In October 1986, this work was destroyed while installed at the Kunstakademie, Dusseldorf.

In 1972, Beuys’ professorship at the Kunstakademie was terminated for undisclosed reasons. In 1978, however, the termination was declared invalid, and Beuys was granted permission to use his studio in the art school until his 67th birthday (May 12, 1986). In 1980, he turned the studio into the office of the “Forschungsinstitut Erweiterter Kunstbegriff (research institute [for an] enlarged notion of art),” which was to be managed by his former assistant, Johannes Stuttgen.

After Beuys’ death in January 1986, the room was re-assigned to another professor, and Stuttgen was sent to pick up Beuys’ things. There, Stuttgen found the remains of “Fettecke” (1982) - a “fat corner” work made of five pounds of butter, which Beuys had applied 5 meters high in the corner of the room, dedicated and gifted to Stuttgen - in a waste-paper basket (shown above). 

Outraged, Stuttgen immediately alerted the press. The Kunstakademie’s administrators explained that a cleaning crew, who had “not recognized Beuys’s work as an art object,” had knocked it down with a broom while sweeping for cobwebs and thrown the remains away. Stuttgen, however, insisted the work had been “quite purposefully and consciously thrown down” and, claiming that this “highly sensitive and so individual work of art” could not be restored, promptly sued the Land Nordrhein-Westfalen for 50,000 marks in damages.

Christopher Schreck