Joseph Beuys

Joseph Beuys’ contribution to the 1987 Luna Luna park was the handwritten text on the topic of Capital and Creativity

Joseph Beuys's contribution to Luna Luna was a handwritten statement that hung at the fair: “Money is not capital at all. However, ability is capital.” The statement reminds viewers that raw creativity is inherent in each and every one of us.


Joseph Beuys


A text on capital and creativity


1921, Germany

Coined the idea of “social sculpture” to imagine a world in which everyone can be an artist and the art is the act of creativity itself.

Saw the artist as a healer who could remedy social harm.

Drew two of his most emblematic materials, fat and felt, from his narrative of being rescued by Tartar nomads after crashing his German warplane in Crimea.

Trailblazing artist Joseph Beuys (born 1921, Krefeld, Germany; died 1986, Düsseldorf, Germany) redefined what art could be in his work as an artist, teacher, political activist, environmentalist, and self-styled mystic. Beuys created drawings, installations, lectures, performances, political actions, sculptures, and writing, all in service of his concept of “social sculpture,” or the collective shaping of society.. As Beuys saw it, everyone was creative, whatever their social role, and life itself was a creative construction, here for all of us to shape. Via this vision he aimed to generate transformative social change as he grappled with the tragedies of war and capitalism in postwar Germany.

“Money is not capital at all.
However, ability is capital.”

Beuys’s career was shaped by a personal mythology of his own design. As he told it, while serving in the German air force during World War II, his war-plane crashed in Crimea. There, Tartar nomads covered his wounds in fat and wrapped him in felt. This narrative announced two materials that would distinguish his sculpture—felt and fat—and established his interest in acts of shamanic healing to address personal and collective wounds. On his second visit to America in 1974, he invoked this narrative in a performance titled I Like America and America Likes Me. Two men collected him at the airport, swaddled him in felt, placed him on a stretcher, and transported him in an ambulance to René Block Gallery in Manhattan, where he lived with a coyote for eight hours on three consecutive days.

Fairground view: Joseph Beuys, Text on capital and creativity, Luna Luna, Hamburg, Germany, June-July, 1987.

Beuys’s contribution to Luna Luna was a handwritten note that hung at the fair, including the statement, “Money is not capital at all. However, ability is capital.” Value resides not in money, but in creativity, which everyone possesses.

© 2022 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

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In the original Luna Luna book, translated and reissued for the first time since 1987.