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  • Broad foundation buys Beuys
  • The collection adds 570 key works by the German artist.
    04.05.2006 By Suzanne Muchnic, Times Staff Writer

    In its largest and most important single acquisition to date, the Broad Art Foundation has purchased 570 works by the late German artist Joseph Beuys, an influential thinker and socially conscious force in avant-garde 20th century art.

    The acquisition comprises a nearly complete collection of the artist's "multiples" — groups of mostly three-dimensional works produced in more than one edition to make them widely available. These works are regarded as the essence of his production.

    The Los Angeles foundation purchased the collection for an undisclosed price from Berlin-based collector Reinhard Schlegel. Made of unconventional materials such as gray felt, weathered wood, reels of film and fish bones, the works were intended to convey political and spiritual meanings to a diverse audience.

    A sampling of the works is expected to go on view in the inaugural exhibition at the Broad Contemporary Art Museum, a $50-million addition to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Funded by Los Angeles philanthropist and art collector Eli Broad, the building is under construction and scheduled to open in late fall 2007. "Having this work in Los Angeles brings something to the city's visual art scene that didn't exist before," Broad said Wednesday. "We thought this was a great opportunity to buy the most important collection of Beuys' multiples that is likely to be available."

    Joanne Heyler, director and chief curator of the foundation, said that the Harvard University Art Museums, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and the Kunstmuseum in Bonn have large holdings of the multiples but that the new acquisition will be unique on the West Coast.

    The acquisition will anchor the Broad holdings of later German art and provide a European counterpoint to the foundation's postwar American artworks, she said.