press release

The German artist Martin Kippenberger (1953–1997) left a body of work that is much richer than many realise. The exhibition Nach Kippenberger presents a chronological overview from 1977 to 1997. Martin Kippenberger was active in the classical genres of painting, sculpture and drawing. Installations on the grand scale demonstrate his interest in precise staging and presentation. Photographs, books, posters and other printed materials are no less important than his one-offs. They served as a medium that the artist could use to disseminate his ideas to a wider public.

Martin Kippenberger consciously played the part of the artist – in its traditional form – in order to expose and dissolve it from within. He was driven by the conflict between the romantically searching universalist and the actual, often banal circumstances of everyday life and creative activity. He produced his first works in the 1970s at a time when the conditions of production and the physical state of art had been minimised and conceptualised until they had all but disappeared. The early 1980s responded to this with a flood of emotionally charged, representative painting. Kippenberger’s work is all too often seen only in this light. Yet he is much more than just some postmodern Bohemian.

One of Kippenberger’s earliest picture cycles, ‘Uno di voi, un Tedesco in Firenze’ (1977) already points to the complexity of his artistic approach. During his time in Florence, he took popular tourist images and picture postcards of the city and painted a series of small, blackand- white oil paintings calculated to equal his own height when stacked one above the other. With this work, Kippenberger also paid his dues to some of his own artistic precursors. Serial-analytical painting à la Gerhard Richter mingles with the humorously inventive methods of the German Pop Art icon Sigmar Polke. The notion of aiming for a measurable size based on his own bodily dimensions is reminiscent of the thinking of his teacher Franz Erhard Walther. And lastly, the title gives a new individual touch to Beuys’s political slogan “La revolutione siamo noi”. In contrast to Beuys’s extended concept of art, according to which “Everyone is an artist”, for Kippenberger, “Every artist is a person.”

Kippenberger’s work plays as much with art history as with things he himself experienced and saw. Self-evident connections and implications are not infrequently intentionally subverted with verbal asides or ironically taken to some provocative extreme. Any apparent disrespect to the public is merely another strategy to draw attention to the matter in hand. With the arrival of Martin Kippenberger the art of the late 20th century saw a reassessment of the relationship of form and content which was to have a major influence on the following generation. Form was no longer per se a vehicle for content, instead it was destroyed from within and rethought as content.

The exhibition Nach Kippenberger is designed to suggest and to show the role of architecture, in a whole variety of guises, as a leitmotif in Kippenberger’s work. In numerous paintings up to the mid-1980s explicit depictions of built structures are the backdrop to multi-faceted reflections. Architecture here is not only a symbol for the modern-day belief in progress, but also a place for very private emotions. The self-portraits made by Kippenberger in 1988, 1992 and 1996 are often set in an architectural environment. Here – as in the sculptures and installations from the late 1980s onwards – built structures appear to be the externalised shell of the artist’s ego.

One year before his death, Kippenberger produced a built synthesis of self-portrait and architectural scenario. The artist, alias Spiderman, seems – after a restless life – to have retreated in a relatively traditional manner into an attic studio, and we see him poised at the ready, brush in hand, just waiting to catch his prey in the net of his work. The question as to the location and the contents of this prey, indeed the question as to the point of any existential (artistic) activity is more urgent here than ever.

Other parts of this exhibition can be seen in the Studio and in the Library. An extensive catalogue (German/English) about the work of Martin Kippenberg accompanies this exhibition. The exhibition Nach Kippenberger was organised in collaboration with the Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien.


Nach Kippenberger
(Martin Kippenberger 1953-1997)
Kuratorin: Eva Meyer-Hermann

11.06.03 - 31.08.03 MUMOK Wien
22.11.03 - 22.02.04 Van Abbemuseum Eindhoven