Franz West (1947–2012) studied under Bruno Gironcoli at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna and had his first exhibitions in Vienna, Frankfurt and New York in the 1980s. He lived and worked in Vienna.
Liège – the title of the work from 1989 is a play on words, referring to both the object shown (Liege in German means lounger) and to the Belgian city Liège. The empty iron lounger dating back to 1989 embodies an aesthetic of absence, consequently demanding its completion by the viewer. Three elements work together inseparably in this artwork: the plinth, that serves as a base, the metal couch, whose emptiness implies the absent analysand, and the document giving instructions for the viewer to complete the artwork. Reflection on the plinth of a three-dimensional artwork, that was already an elementary theme for Rodin, also plays a central role in the oeuvre of Franz West. In Franz West’s work, however, the detachment of the artwork created by the plinth is thwarted by a written message addressed directly to the viewer, prompting him to lie down on the lounger and thus to reveal its true significance in a direct interaction with the object. Not until the visitor to the exhibition lies down on the piece of furniture does the artwork acquire its real meaning.*
West’s work is arguably the most immediate link in the art collection to Sigmund Freud, whose treatment method that involves having the patient lie down on the couch for a “talking cure” is an integral part of psychoanalysis. Freud had his first office on the upper ground floor of Berggasse 19 before finally moving to the first floor, where he treated patients until his emigration.
*abbreviated description of the object after Elisabeth Hirschmann
Photo: Franz West, Liège (c) Gerald Zugmann / Sigmund Freud Privatstiftung