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Joseph Beuys, Capri-Battery, 1986.
Joseph Beuys, Capri-Battery, 1986.

Artist Collective Claims Responsibility for Stolen Beuys Sculpture

German artist collective Frankfurter Hauptschule has announced that its members are responsible for stealing a Joseph Beuys sculpture from an exhibition in Oberhausen, Germany, and delivering it to the Iringa Boma regional museum and cultural center in Tanzania as a “symbolic act of restitution to the former German colony,” Artnews reports.

The group has posted to YouTube a video titled “Bad Beuys Go Africa” that allegedly shows the heist taking place and the sculpture being delivered to the Tanzanian institution, a repurposed military hospital, all to the strains of a choral cover of Toto’s 1982 radio hit “Africa.” As first reported in German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, the work, from Beuys’s 1985 series “Capri-Battery,” was taken on October 18 from the exhibition “Pollution. Body States. Fascism: Christoph Schlingenseif and the Art” at the Oberhausen Theater, where it was on loan from the LWL Museum for Art and Culture in Münster.

The theft evidently” went unnoticed for some days,” and is now under investigation by German authorities. In a text accompanying the posted video, Frankfurter Hauptschule claims that the work is now on display “alongside traditional objects of the craftsmanship of the Hehe tribe.” The group further asserts, “Under the colonial regime, art objects, cultural assets and skulls of Hehe leaders were stolen from Iringa and brought to Germany in inextricable numbers.”

Beuys came up with the concept for the “Capri-Battery” sculptures, which each consist of a lemon and a yellow lightbulb, while recovering from an illness on the Italian island for which the work is named. There are some two hundred of the objects in existence, with iterations residing in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh, among other institutions.