Franz West was born in post-war Vienna in 1947. He first studied civil engineering then attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna from 1977 to 1983.
West only began to seriously commit himself to art at twenty-five. He was initially influenced by Pop Art and using newsprint as a material, then began to make collages, furniture and public sculptures. His media included plaster, papier-mâché and painted aluminium.
West is perhaps best known for his ‘Adaptives’ or ‘Passstÿcke’ which are rough plaster sculptures that are intended to be handled by the viewer. This was in an attempt to create a dialogue between the artist and viewer on both a mental and physical level. West rejected the Actionists (a violent movement of radical and explicit performance art at the time) but also opposed a passivity in viewing art, so encouraged participation to solve this.
In 1990 West represented Austria at the Venice Biennale. He then spent the rest of his life exhibiting in highly popular shows including those at the Gagosian Gallery, the Baltimore Museum of Art and made an appearance at the Liverpool Biennial. In 2011 West was awarded the Golden Lion life time achievement award.
West died in Vienna in 2012, aged sixty-six, after a long illness.