Folks in the know hold the German conceptual artist Joseph Beuys in similar standing to Marcel Duchamp and Andy Warhol as a key figure in expanding the field of art to include, potentially, just about anything. But beyond the contemporary art cognoscenti, he is far from a household name. That may change with the new documentary Beuys, by director Andres Veiel, which will have a theatrical run at New York’s Film Forum cinema beginning January 17, 2018.

The above trailer, premiering exclusively on Hyperallergic, gives a sense of the film’s expansive approach to the fedora-wearing artist’s philosophy and practice, including audio recordings and archival footage that’s never been seen before. Veiel’s film seeks to offer historical context for Beuys’s path-breaking work, from his conceptually crucial Multiples to iconic performances like “I Like America and America Likes Me” (1974), for which he lived in a gallery with a coyote for three days. It also draws on John Halpern’s 1988 film Joseph Beuys / TRANSFORMER, which tracks the artist’s preparation for his 1979 retrospective at the Guggenheim in New York.

“Only on condition of a radical widening of definitions will it be possible for art and activities related to art [to] provide evidence that art is now the only evolutionary-revolutionary power,” Beuys once said. “Only art is capable of dismantling the repressive effects of a senile social system that continues to totter along the deathline.” The documentary Beuys will not only offer a psychological portrait of the man, but chronicle the many ways he sought to reverse the effects of our repressive social systems — and how his breakthroughs continue to influence artists today.

Beuys (2017) (courtesy Kino Lorber)” width=”720″ height=”1067″ srcset=”×1067.jpg 720w,×1600.jpg 1080w,×533.jpg 360w, 1350w” sizes=”(max-width: 720px) 100vw, 720px”>

Poster for Beuys (2017) (courtesy Kino Lorber)

Poster for Beuys (2017) (courtesy Kino Lorber)

Poster for Beuys (2017) (courtesy Kino Lorber)

Beuys opens on January 17, 2018 at Film Forum (209 West Houston Street, Soho, Manhattan) for a two-week run.

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Benjamin Sutton

Benjamin Sutton is an art critic, journalist, and curator who lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn. His articles on public art, artist documentaries, the tedium of art fairs, James Franco's obsession with Cindy...