Franz Erhard Walther – Rolls Royce, 1958

Franz Erhard Walther. Rolls Royce, 1958. Pencil on paper mounted on paper, adhesive tape, 58x50cm.

Franz Erhard Walther was born in 1939 in Fulda, Germany.

The work of Franz Erhard Walther has attracted critical attention since the mid 1960s. It becomes increasingly apparent not only how much he contributed to the development of an action-oriented concept of art in the second half of the 20th century, but also how his position continues to serve younger artists as inspiration. The notion that one is permitted to look at art but not touch it, that there is some impregnable boundary between a work of art and our physical selves, our demeanor, our social roles, continues to provoke opposition. Walther was one of the forerunners in this protest, an exponent of a relational aesthetic avant la lettre, one that takes into account the physical nature of the work of art on a substantial level.

Walther’s work has been included in four documenta exhibitions. Since 1963 he has consistently championed the concept of sculpture as performance and participation, the notion that art is a collaborative event in which artist and public contribute on an equal footing. For Walther the “meaning” of a work has always been primarily what results from this collaboration, not something to be discovered through detached and solitary contemplation. His uncomplicated, straightforward objects and installations address their viewers with partly tactile, partly intellectual stimuli; they trigger the temptation to act, the desire to experience things in a physical way, and question their viewers’ positions in space and in relation to each other. As evolved over the last five decades, Walther’s oeuvre presents an exemplary variety of methodological approaches. It also illustrates the difficulties faced by any form of art that hopes for participation on the part of the public, with the intention of making the appreciation of art a more collective, even democratic enterprise.