Rebecca Horn

Rebecca Horn

The mentor

Published in 2009

“There is more than a little bit of magic about Rebecca Horn, artist-inventor and alchemist,” said novelist Jeanette Winterson of the celebrated German artist.

For the past 40 years, Horn has gained worldwide recognition for her category-defying work that incorporates performance, installation, sculpture, kinetics, drawing, film, photography and poetry, challenging perceptions of what art can be.

During the period of her studies at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste (Academy of Fine Arts) in Hamburg (1964-1970), Horn shifted from making large sculptures with fibreglass and polyester to creating her now famous body-extension sculptures made of soft materials. These prosthetic attachments had as their theme the contact between a person and his or her environment, with the artist exploring the equilibrium between body and space.

Unicorn, one of Horn's first and best known hybrid pieces, was followed in the 1970s by similar performance-bodily extensions, masks and feathered objects. Her work evolved into mechanical installations – Concert for Anarchy (1990), featuring a piano hanging upside down from the ceiling that suddenly erupts into action, and Light Imprisoned in the Belly of the Whale (2002), combining water, words, music and light, being prime examples – along with huge, site-specific creations such as the historically charged Concert in Reverse (1987), at a Nazi execution site in Münster. Horn has documented many of these works on film, as well as producing three features, including Buster's Bedroom (1990), inspired by Buster Keaton and starring Donald Sutherland.

Rebecca Horn's prize-winning work has been featured in solo exhibitions at top galleries and international institutions, with major retrospectives at the Guggenheim Museum in New York (1993), London's Tate Gallery (1994) and, most recently, at the Martin-Gropius-Bau exhibition hall in Berlin. When not crafting her surreal pieces, Horn enjoys collaborating with young people. From 1989 until 2009, she has taught at the Universität der Künste in Berlin.