Das Erdtelephon
The Earth Telephone

Joseph Beuys, German, 1921 - 1986

Made in Germany, Europe


Siemens telephone, earth clod with grass and roots, wooden plank

7 7/8 × 30 × 19 1/4 inches (20 × 76.2 × 48.9 cm)

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

Curatorial Department:
Contemporary Art

* Gallery 170, Modern and Contemporary Art, first floor

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Gift of Keith L. and Katherine Sachs, 2013

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Erdtelephon exemplifies Joseph Beuys’s understanding of sculpture as active material and potential energy rather than as a static shape. For Beuys, this piece constituted a material statement on the nature of energy. It is a “social sculpture”—a concept of art as an interdisciplinary and participatory process. Earth and telephone are paired as visual manifestations of the transforming power of human communication. The artist believed that every individual possesses creative power and, as such, is responsible for helping to create a democratic, sustainable social order.

* Works in the collection are moved off view for many different reasons. Although gallery locations on the website are updated regularly, there is no guarantee that this object will be on display on the day of your visit.