Strategy: Get Arts

‘More Impact than the Venice Biennale’: Demarco, Beuys and Strategy: Get Arts 

2020 is the 50th anniversary of Strategy: Get Arts. Co-curators Christian Weikop and Alexander Hamilton, are planning an installation within Edinburgh College of Art, with links to a research related web site, hosted by Edinburgh University. Panels featuring all 35 Artists that took part in this ground-breaking exhibition, will be in the spaces where the artists, performed, exhibited and made history.  

George Oliver (1920-1990) Rainer Ruthenbeck (third left) with Alexander Hamilton (second left) and unidentified Edinburgh College of Art student assistants during installation of his work for Strategy: Get Arts, Edinburgh College of Art, 1970. Courtesy of Demarco European Art Foundation & Demarco Digital Archive, University of Dundee

The ground-breaking exhibition Strategy: Get Arts was staged at the Edinburgh College of Art from August 23rd to September 12th 1970. This exhibition brought many key figures of post-war art, who were based in the city of Düsseldorf, to the United Kingdom for the first time, including Joseph Beuys, Gerhard Richter, Blinky Palermo, Sigmar Polke and Günter Uecker. It was a highly significant event in the history of Edinburgh College of Art and the Edinburgh Festival, an exhibition that received international press attention.

The photo documentation relating to this exhibition was featured in an essay in Studies in Photography Summer Edition entitled ‘Documents and Archives: Photography Of, At and In the 1970 Strategy: Get Arts Exhibition’ by Karen Barber. The documentation is also a story that reveals the challenges, dramas and dramatic events that unfolded during the course of this unique exhibition.

Held in August 1970 at Edinburgh College of Art, as part of the Edinburgh International Festival, Strategy: Get Arts, with its palindromic title, was one of the most important art exhibitions ever held in Scotland – and arguably in Britain. The exhibition brought the latest contemporary art by thirty-five Düsseldorf-based artists to Edinburgh for a three-week event that helped to redefine the nature of art in Scotland. Little-known, and long overlooked, the exhibition has been the subject of renewed interest as artists, curators, and scholars seek to reappraise its legacy as its fiftieth anniversary approaches. This much-needed reappraisal has been facilitated by the various institutional archives that now hold the material relating to the exhibition. While it is difficult to reconstruct the history of this groundbreaking exhibition, the photographs taken before and during Strategy: Get Arts (SGA) provide a fragmentary glimpse into this unprecedented event, and as such they merit closer study. 

Karen Barber, Studies in Photography 2019 Summer Edition, ‘Documents and Archives: Photography Of, At and In the 1970 Strategy: Get Arts Exhibition’
George Oliver (1920-1990) Exhibition visitors with some of the panels of Joseph Beuys’s installation later entitled Arena, Strategy: Get Arts, Edinburgh College of Art, 1970. Courtesy of Demarco European Art Foundation & Demarco Digital Archive, University of Dundee.

Described as ‘shock tactics,’ a ‘massive happening’ and ‘the event’ of the 1970 Edinburgh International Festival, Strategy: Get Arts presented contemporary art by thirty- five artists living and working in Düsseldorf, West Germany.  Largely unknown in Britain at the time, the artists shown in SGA are now recognised internationally for their contributions to Fluxus, performance art, conceptual art, and land art. Among the artists included were Joseph Beuys, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Dorothy Iannone, Gotthard Graubner, Sigmar Polke, Gerhard Richter, Klaus Rinke, Dieter Rot, Reiner Ruthenbeck, Daniel Spoerri, André Thomkins, Günther Uecker, and Stefan Wewerka. Organised by the Richard Demarco Gallery and the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, SGA ran from 23 August to 12 September 1970. In the exhibition, a range of site-specific artworks mingled with sculpture, painting, photographs, sound installations, films, and actions, bombarding the spectator with sights, sounds, and sensations not previously seen in Edinburgh. With roots in the anti-art ethos of Dada and Fluxus, SGA was the first major exhibition of contemporary German art in Britain since 1938.

Karen Barber, Studies in Photography 2019 Summer Edition, ‘Documents and Archives: Photography Of, At and In the 1970 Strategy: Get Arts Exhibition’

Membership of SSHoP gives you full access to this article in the members area of our website.

Dr Christian Weikop is a Senior Lecturer in Modern and Contemporary German Art at Edinburgh University and has taught and published extensively in his field.

Christian Weikop’s paper, ‘“More Impact than the Venice Biennale”: Demarco, Beuys and Strategy: Get Arts’, was featured in Tate Papers, no.31, Spring 2019. You can read his wider analysis of the project here.

The Thirty-Five Artists

  • H.P. Alvermann
  • Bernd und Hilla Becher
  • Joseph Beuys
  • Claus Böhmler 
  • George Brecht
  • Peter Brüning 
  • Henning Christiansen
  • Friedhelm Döhl
  • Robert Filliou
  • Karl Gerstner
  • Gotthard Graubner
  • Erwin Heerich 
  • Dorothy Iannone
  • Mauricio Kagel
  • Konrad Klapheck
  • W.Knoebel
  • Christof Kohlhöfer 
  • Ferdinand Kriwet
  • Adolf Luther
  • Heinz Mack
  • Lutz Mommartz 
  • Tony Morgan
  •  Blinky Palermo
  • Sigmar Polke
  • Erich Reusch
  • Gerhard Richter
  • Klaus Rinke
  • Dieter Rot
  • Reiner Ruthenbeck
  • Daniel Spoerri
  • André Thomkins
  • Günter Uecker
  • Franz Erhard Walter
  • Günter Weseler
  • Stefan Wewerka

George Oliver Image Gallery

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