Franz Erhard Walther

Deichtorhallen/Galerie Vera Munro/Kunstverein Hannover

For about thirty years the Hamburg-based artist Franz Erhard Walther has pursued—with admirable persistence—an elusive approach to artmaking that he calls “another concept of the work of art.” Over the years Walther’s innovative projects have often suffered from critical neglect, but three comprehensive retrospective exhibitions in Cologne and Hannover recently provided a long-overdue opportunity to reevaluate his career.

While he was still an art student, Walther began to take a radical approach to sculpture, choosing to return to a ground-zero point at which the only materials that remained were, in his own words, “language, body, space, place, and time.” In 1963 he presented a small but extremely controversial exhibition in Fulda that featured a two-meter-long banner emblazoned with words such as “orgasm,” “Ovid,” “penis,” and “pope,” in alphabetical order; alongside it appeared a

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