Images from the "Frankfurter Hauptschule": Art is what is taken from you
Photo: Frankfurter Hauptschule
It was a crazy message that was posted to the German press landscape on Thursday morning.
What it said promised a sensation: an art campaign would have taken on the German restitution policy, the museum landscape, post-colonialism, Christoph Schlingensief and Joseph Beuys all at once.
The murmur in the press was correspondingly large.
But what was in the mail was probably not true.
The artist group "Frankfurter Hauptschule" announced that they had stolen a sculpture by Joseph Beuys from an exhibition in Oberhausen.
Then the students flew to Tanzania.
There they had given the work to an ethnological museum, which now shows it in its rooms between the cultural assets of the Hehe tribe.
Scandal group with a feeling for sensitive issues
The "Frankfurter Hauptschule" is an artistic collective from the environment of the Städel Art School.
Your actions are striking and effective in the media.
They sold fake tickets for the Bayreuth Festival, placed a burned-out police car in downtown Frankfurt, announced a "heroin performance" sponsored with public funds and exhibited works with naked children.
They always touch sensitive topics.
Fake is part of their art, and misleading websites are also common.
What was the riot group planning this time?
The stolen sculpture is the "Capri Battery", the statement said.
Joseph Beuys produced 200 copies of the work in 1985: a yellow light bulb connected to a lemon by a plug.
The collective also provided video recordings of the alleged theft, as well as image material for free use and links to the affected museums in Oberhausen and Tanzania.
In addition, an interpretation of the alleged intervention with the title "Bad Beuys go Africa": The theft was a kind of reparation to the former German colony of Tanzania.
There was also a video that had a rather satirical effect: three young people get on a plane in safari clothing, applaud when they land, lie in a good mood by the pool of a hotel, go on a photo safari.
It is the staging of unreflected sensational tourism that can be read as a post-colonial demonstration of power.
Every now and then a yellow light bulb can be seen in the picture.
This is followed by a ritual handover of the light bulb to people in traditional clothing.
The last fade-in of the three-minute video reads: "Art is what you can get away with (Andy Warhol)".
It was applied very thickly.
"We just went in there and took the sculpture with us," said a spokesman for the Frankfurt secondary school on the phone to SPIEGEL.
"The object is no longer in its place. The incident is being investigated," wrote the Oberhausen Theater, which houses the exhibition "Christoph Schlingensief and Art".
The police had received a complaint.
And from an address of the specified museum in Tanzania, an email came on request: Yes, an object had been handed over, a "Lemon Light", wrote a museum director named Jan Kuever.
Was that all true?
Is it that easy to steal a well-known work of art?
How likely is it that three young people who commit an art theft then show their faces in a video?
And doesn't it fit perfectly with the exhibition on action and happening artists that current action art is also happening?
Affirmation video from Africa?
When the German press agency sent out the message "Beuys-Werk in Oberhausen disappeared" on Thursday afternoon, it left these inconsistencies open: "In a video that confesses it, a trip to Africa is shown. Whether it is the work of art from Oberhausen, however, is not clear detect."
Almost all feature sections and art magazines took a bite.
The reference to doubt often only came at the very end of the text.
The "Süddeutsche Zeitung" quoted the artist collective again in more detail with a description of how the work of art was brought to Tanzania ("in a stable box").
The "taz" recognized nasty swipes at Christoph Schlingensief and Joseph Beuys and an "ultimate cynical accounting with German restitution policy as almsgiving".
And the "Deutsche Welle" even got the head of the LWL in Münster to compare the action with the attack on three Berlin museums, in which strangers damaged more than 60 paintings with an oily liquid.
Joseph Beuys (1972)
Photo: ErichPuls / dpa
But since Monday has been rowed back: The "Capri battery" has never traveled to Tanzania, but is still in Oberhausen, wrote the "Frankfurt secondary school" now.
She was hidden in the storage room.
The museum in Tanzania would have known about it, but played along because it wanted to draw attention to the topic of looted colonial art.
Here, too, it remains uncertain which of these is true.
But slowly that doesn't matter anymore.
What is certain: the Oberhausen theater and the police confirmed to the owner on Monday that the factory was back.
The core of the "Bad Beuys go Africa" campaign seems to be different anyway.
Namely, the knee-jerk reaction of the media to deliberate scandals - even when actions appear obviously satirical or implausible.
And you can make the point.
Icon: The mirror