If Rebecca Horn is not a cult artist, it’s hard to define what we mean by ‘cult artist’. But the truth is that Horn isn’t really viewed as a cult artist at all. From her distinctive looks, to her body of work that spans five decades and includes whispering Chinese voices in the dark, rattling hanging typewriters, Donald Sutherland dancing with snakes, and a woman wandering around with a horn protruding from her headpiece, Horn’s career is brimming with the kind of eccentric material that would normally see an artist labelled ‘cult.’
Horn, born in Germany during the latter stages of the Second World War, sits alongside Joseph Beuys and Anselm Kiefer as one of her nations greatest contemporary artists. Like Kiefer, it is easy to point to her homelands tumultuous recent history as providing a backdrop for her art, particular in light of her attempt to recreate Germany’s past for Skulptor Projekte Munster. No doubt the young artist experienced the scars of wartime defeat. Her teachers, confused by sudden events, didn’t know how to teach, and her parents were industrialists whom would have been gravely affected by the great conflict.
But her early body modification pieces were possibly inspired by a year spent in a sanatorium during her youth, not too long after her lungs became diseased, infected by what she terms poisonous materials. Whether such experiences really were the starting point for a career saturated with work focused on body modification is one not worth speculating; but her subsequent bandages, prosthetics and masks have their root somewhere, be it in Germany’s collective post-war experience, or in her own individual psychological makeup.
Now seventy, Rebecca Horn has been one of the world’s most sought-after artists ever since her first show in 1972. In 2014 she exhibited at New York, Paris and Munich, and has an upcoming show scheduled for Harvard. Horn can also boast to be the only German female thus far to have had a major show at the Guggenheim Museum. Her eerie mechanical sculptures, some of which come alive mid-show, have constantly found an audience. Reminiscent of the sinister films of David Lynch, Horn’s art is curious if not hip or cult.
Indeed, Rebecca Horn’s art is probably unappealing to the younger market, and the fact that she has forever worked with the same themes probably ensures she’ll always fail to appeal to a younger audience who are always looking for the next big thing.