Strategy: Get Arts. SGA50
Strategy: Get Arts. SGA50 logo

13. Joseph Beuys, The Pack, installed in the Sculpture Department Corridor

At SGA, The Pack, along with Celtic (Kinloch Rannoch) Scottish Symphony and Arena, collectively marked Beuys’s artistic debut in the English-speaking world.

Joseph Beuys, The Pack, installed for Strategy: Get Arts (August 1970) in the Sculpture Department Corridor. Photo

The VW camper van Beuys used for The Pack was owned by the legendary Düsseldorf gallerist René Block. Initially, Beuys had created the sledge installation under the title of Die Meute in the hall of the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf in 1969. It was then exhibited at the Cologne Art Market in the same year, this time with the VW camper in place.

There, it was offered for the sum of 110,000 DM and acquired from Block by the natural scientist and art collector Dr Jorst Herbig. It was loaned to ECA for Strategy: Get Arts. The title Das Rudel (The Pack) was given to the installation when it was exhibited in Edinburgh.

Beuys's work became The Pack in Edinburgh

Photographs by George Oliver document the offloading of the VW from the Hasenkamp delivery lorry, the extensive manoeuvring required to get it into the ECA Main Building, and its installation in the Sculpture Department corridor. One Oliver photograph shows Beuys carefully arranging the sledges coming out of the vehicle. The Pack consisted of

  • the VW camper van,
  • children’s sledges,
  • rolls of felt,
  • fat,
  • and torches.

Beuys explained the rescue elements of the work to the journalist Michael Pye, who had also accompanied him to Rannoch Moor for the film shown as part of Celtic Kinloch Rannoch, in many ways a related work:

The light is for orientation, and the fat, it is butter for food, and the felt is for warmth, it is for shelter, for a house. It is the three things that you need in extreme conditions.

Joseph BeuysAs Michael Pye reported in the Scotsman on 22 August 1970

What is not well documented in the extant literature on Beuys is the fact that The Pack was somewhat ‘damaged’ whilst installed at ECA.

Once Strategy: Get Arts had ended, Demarco wrote to Dr Herbig on 17 September 1970, informing him of the awkward matter of children from the local area tampering with the installation. Communicating the loss of torches, Demarco wrote:

I hope you will have no difficulty in replacing them [the torches], but try as I did I couldn’t find that German make Varta No. 505 in Britain. Please contact me if you have any difficulty in replacing the torches.

Richard DemarcoWriting to Dr Herbig on 17 September 1970
Joseph Beuys, The Pack, installed in the Sculpture Department Corridor. Photo
Photo © George Oliver, and DACS 2021.

The matter did not in fact end there with a lot of wrangling between various parties about the scale of the issue and insurance liability. Documentation relating to the incident can be found in the Richard Demarco Archive at SNGMA.

In 1976, Gerbig lent The Pack to the Neue Galerie in Kassel (a long loan) and Beuys set up the room in the museum for its installation, now considered to be one of the most important by the artist.

At the end of the 1980s, the Herbigs did not want to extend the loan for another ten years, but in 1993 the State of Hesse, with the support of the Hessischen Kulturstiftung and the Kulturstiftung der Länder, acquired the Beuys room for 16 million DM.

The Pack has been loaned out three times since 1976. It was exhibited at the important Guggenheim Beuys retrospective in 1979, then in 2005 at Tate Modern, and for another retrospective, Parallel Processes at the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf (2010-2011). 



Related links

Read the Tate Papers special issue on Joseph Beuys, co-edited by Christian Weikop. This issue includes an article on the press reception of SGA.

Global project, Beuys2021