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Martin Kippenberger (1953-1997)
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Martin Kippenberger (1953-1997)\nUntitled (from the Hand-Painted Picture Series)\nsigned and dated 'KIPPENBERGER 92' (on the reverse)\noil on canvas\n70 7/8 x 59 1/8in. (180 x 150cm.)\nPainted in 1992
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notes

‘[In the 1992 self-portraits] the surly shyness of 1988 was gone, replaced by a clownishness whose irony borders on self-hatred. The poses are ridiculous, theatrically contorted, and full of an exaggerated tension; he appears in a comic struggle with himself, wearing tight bicycling shorts and a T-shirt; then standing on his head à la Baselitz, as a naked, thin-legged Olympic sprinter, as an excellent dancer, and as a melancholic posed between a lifebelt and a gallows: Kippenberger as a clown between performance and despair’ (D. Bauman, ‘The Way You Wear Your Hat’, in Martin Kippenberger, exh. cat., Kunsthalle Basel, Basel, 1998, p. 68).

‘The fulcrum of his artistic ideas was his own persona. It was always the person Martin Kippenberger that faced up to everyday reality. He described himself as “one of you” and declared that “every artist is also a human being”, turning Beuys’s famous dictum the other way. His own individuality, with all its vulnerability and particular life circumstances served as a source of inspiration for his art’ (E. Meyer-Hermann, ‘Yes, I am also a woman. Tragedies of the flesh’, in Kippenberger Meets Picasso, exh. cat., Museo Picasso, Malaga, 2011, p. 63).

‘The stupidest things suddenly turned into something quite individual. It’s such a comic process. Always get to the heart of the matter, to things that are so close that you wouldn’t think of them. Like an egg, or that sort of thing, and mess about with that ... You don’t have to painstakingly pull things apart, discover something somewhere or other. Some things are never used up because there’s still so much in them’ (M. Kippenberger, interviewed by D. Baumann, ‘Parachever Picasso/Completing Picasso’, in Martin Kippenberger, exh. cat., Tate Modern, London, 2006, p. 65).

‘[On Syros, Kippenberger] didn’t need all that self-display nonsense. In Berlin and Cologne it was like they flipped a switch to turn him on and he had to give them the Martin’ (H. Middendorf, quoted in S. Kippenberger, Kippenberger: The Artist and his Families, Berlin 2007, p. 436).

Situated at the pinnacle of Martin Kippenberger’s practice, Untitled (from the Hand-Painted Picture Series) is an outstanding work from the artist’s landmark series of self-portraits: the Hand-Painted pictures of 1992. Painted on the Greek island of Syros, this complex sequence of works has come to represent one of Kippenberger’s most important engagements with the questions of self-presentation that occupied him throughout his oeuvre. Laden with both machismo and humility, the present work is a tour de force of many of the artist’s most important self-signifying motifs. Turning his body away from the viewer, he casts himself as a near-Classical sculptural icon, his face and enlarged hand rendered with bold, expressionistic brushstrokes. Clad in the distinctive orange cycling shorts that recur throughout the series, his pseudo-athletic stance and exaggerated muscular limbs are held in almost comedic tension with his dainty androgynous shoes and paunch belly. Simultaneously deifying and mocking his own image, Kippenberger’s self-portrayal oscillates between glorification and anti-heroic parody: a dualism that lay at the heart of his practice. The egg – Kippenberger’s most important symbolic alter-ego – looms large in the foreground. Across its gleaming white surface, a codified inscription is emblazoned in reversed Greek Cyrillic letters – a graffiti-like tag that features in a number of other paintings, and which translates into German as ‘neu’ (‘new’). The regenerative connotations of the egg – which, throughout the series, is variously shown giving birth to the artist – is teasingly contradicted by the inscription’s visual allusion to the iconic ‘HB’ branding of House of Bergmann cigarettes. Anchoring his life and practice, the Hand-Painted pictures are held major public and private collections including the Centre Georges Pompidou and Annick and Anton Herbert Foundation. Situated within this definitive body of work, the present painting was first exhibited in Kippenberger’s legendary 1997 show Der Eiermann und seine Ausleger (The Eggman and his Outriggers) at the Städtisches Museum Abteiberg in Mönchengladbach. Following his untimely death that year, it featured in the acclaimed retrospective Martin Kippenberger, held at the Kunsthalle Basel and Diechtorhallen Hamburg in 1998.

The Hand-Painted pictures of 1992 represent the culmination of Kippenberger’s masterful reinvention of self-portraiture, following on from the celebrated ‘Picasso’ self-portraits of 1988. Looking to the ultimate Modern icon as a contemporary alter-ego, these works had restaged the well-known photograph of Picasso standing in a proud state of undress on the steps of Château Vauvenargues in 1962. Casting himself in the likeness of his famous antecedent, Kippenberger playfully subverted the bravado associated with the genre. It was this kind of polemical irreverence that came to characterise Kippenberger’s artistic persona during the 1980s, and by the end of that decade, his notoriety had reached fever pitch. It was from this context that the Hand-Painted pictures emerged. As Daniel Bauman has written, ‘Kippenberger’s fame as an “agent provocateur” was at its peak at the end of the eighties, but from then on he seemed less and less explosive. His provocative behaviour increasingly degenerated into ritual, little more than entertainment for his admirers. The 1992 self-portraits deal directly with this. The surly shyness of 1988 was gone, replaced by a clownishness whose irony borders on self-hatred. The poses are ridiculous, theatrically contorted, and full of an exaggerated tension; he appears in a comic struggle with himself, wearing tight bicycling shorts and a T-shirt; then standing on his head à la Baselitz, as a naked, thin-legged Olympic sprinter, as an excellent dancer, and as a melancholic posed between a lifebelt and a gallows: Kippenberger as a clown between performance and despair’ (D. Bauman, ‘“The Way You Wear Your Hat”, in Martin Kippenberger, exh. cat., Kunsthalle Basel, Basel, 1998, p. 68). The orange cycling shorts that feature in the present work, and in others from the series, were derived from photograph of himself, sporting the garment in an outlandish, semi-naked pose. Barely more decent than Picasso’s underwear, the shorts – as well as the mock-athletic postures – seemed to relate ironically to the Grecian Olympian tradition, playfully undermined by his incongruous footwear and sagging torso. Throughout his lifetime, Kippenberger rejoiced in playing up to conflicting stereotypes of the artist – the artist as drunk, as outlaw, as jester, as deity – and the present work may be seen to confront these axioms.

However, for all their acerbic wit and jarring comedic tension, the Hand-Painted pictures were born of a rather different context to Kippenberger’s previous self-portraits. It was during the early 1990s, at the height of his infamy, that he first began to visit his friends Michel and Catherine Würthle on Syros. Michel owned the notorious Paris Bar, which Kippenberger had frequented during his Berlin years. In the peace and quiet of their guesthouse and its studio, away from the heady, alcohol-fuelled debauchery of Cologne, the trappings of showmanship began to slip away. In the island’s wide-open, empty landscape, Kippenberger found a therapeutic calm. He described ‘the changing acupuncture from coming there + flying warmth – little lightning bolts of good mood beams’ (M. Kippenberger, quoted in S. Kippenberger, Kippenberger: The Artist and his Families, Berlin 2007, p. 436). It was there that Kippenberger was to bring two of his biggest projects to fruition: his imaginary global subway system Metronet, and the fabled Museum of Modern Art Syros, an anti-art-world establishment with almost no artworks and limited visitor. As the artist’s sister Susanne Kippenberger recalls, he became a different person on the island: removed from the braying demands of the public, the rebellious prankster was replaced by a contented figure, one who embraced family life with the Würthles, threw himself into the parochial community and wiled away peaceful hours drawing in the local café. As Helmut Mittendorf remembers, on Syros Kippenberger ‘didn’t need all that self-display nonsense. In Berlin and Cologne it was like they flipped a switch to turn him on and he had to give them the Martin’ (H. Mittendorf, quoted in S. Kippenberger, Kippenberger: The Artist and his Families, Berlin 2007, p. 436).

Though the content of the Hand-Painted pictures was still very much in line with that particular ‘Martin’, there was a marked difference in their painterly approach. Unlike the Dear Painter, Paint For Me self-portraits of 1981, in which Kippenberger employed a poster-painter to meticulously reproduce a series of private snapshots, the 1992 series was, above all, ‘handpainted’: visceral, sometimes painful self-exposures of his dwindling physique and conflicted psyche. In the present work, a plethora of painterly languages jostles upon the surface of the canvas: from richly-worked impasto to intricate linear detail, from matte swathes of colour to layered chromatic modulations. Far from shunning the trace of the artist’s hand, the Hand-Painted pictures rejoiced in its presence, translating the impulses of his consciousness onto the canvas with gestural immediacy. The codified fragments of Greek Cyrillic text found throughout the series frequently spell out imploring, often nihilistic dictums: ‘Suspicion of Complicity’, ‘Destroy what Destroys You’, ‘Plea for Peace’ and ‘Nobody Helps Anybody’. The candid sense of vulnerability that hovers in the background of the Hand-Painted pictures would become increasingly prevalent in the works executed during his final years, in particular the self-portrait series The Raft of the Medusa and the enigmatic cycle Jacqueline: The Pictures Pablo Couldn’t Paint Any More. A humanizing register surfaces in the Hand-Painted pictures – a poignant sense of introspection that transcends the layers of comedy and irony. As Eva Meyer-Hermann has written, ‘It was always the person Martin Kippenberger that faced up to everyday reality. He described himself as “one of you” and declared that “every artist is also a human being”, turning Beuys’s famous dictum the other way. His own individuality, with all its vulnerability and particular life circumstances served as a source of inspiration for his art’ (E. Meyer-Hermann, ‘Yes, I am also a woman. Tragedies of the flesh’, in Kippenberger Meets Picasso, exh. cat., Museo Picasso, Malaga, 2011, p. 63).

The domineering presence of the egg in the present work is also indicative of Kippenberger’s increasingly fragile self-image. Though it had first made its appearance much earlier in his practice, it was during the final years of his life that the symbol came to assume a particularly special significance. Between the Eierbilder (Egg Paintings) of 1996 and Der Eiermann und seine Ausleger (The Eggman and his Outriggers) of 1997, the egg came to dominate his life and art, manifesting itself in a variety of guises. Ultimately, it took its place alongside the frog, the lamp and the chair as one of his most important conceptual linchpins, operating as an alter-ego, a formal device and a pervasive leitmotif. As a symbol of fertility and life, a religious signifier and a banal food item, the egg was idealized for its ability to invoke both the comedic and the profound. In a late interview, the artist described how ‘...the stupidest things suddenly turned into something quite individual. It’s such a comic process. Always get to the heart of the matter, to things that are so close that you wouldn’t think of them. Like an egg, or that sort of thing, and mess about with that ... You don’t have to painstakingly pull things apart, discover something somewhere or other. Some things are never used up because there’s still so much in them’ (M. Kippenberger, interviewed by D. Baumann, ‘Parachever Picasso/Completing Picasso’, in Martin Kippenberger, exh. cat., Tate Modern, London, 2006, p. 65). In the present work, the egg appears like an omen, a strange being threatening to engulf the artist altogether. For Kippenberger, who would increasingly come to identify himself as ‘the Eggman’ its spectral presence is both jocular and quietly haunting.

title

Martin Kippenberger (1953-1997)

medium

Oil on canvas

prelot

PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED PRIVATE COLLECTION

signed

Signed and dated 'KIPPENBERGER 92' (on the reverse)

creator

Martin Kippenberger

keywords

Martin Kippenberger , 1990s, Paintings, Germany, Contemporary

exhibited

Cologne, Max Hetzler, Martin Kippenberger, 1992, p. 14 (illustrated in colour, p. 15).

Mönchengladbach, Städtisches Museum Abteiberg, Martin Kippenberger: der Eiermann und seine Ausleger, 1997.

Basel, Kunsthalle Basel, Martin Kippenberger, 1998-1999, p. 153, no. 48 (illustrated in colour, p. 78). This exhibition later travelled to Hamburg, Deichtorhallen and Prague, Narodni Galerie.

Klosterneuburg, Essl Museum - Kunst der Gegenwart, FALLOBST - Witz Ironie Kunst, 2001.

Graz, Landesmuseum Joanneum, Steirischer Herbst ‘01: Portrait: Recent Portraiture and Depiction, 2001, p. 243 (illustrated in colour, p. 100).

Klosterneuburg, Essl Museum - Kunst der Gegenwart, Permanent 06, 2006.

Linz, Landesgalerie, Scheitern : Dieter Froese, Haubitz+Zoche, Isabell Heimerdinger, Christian Jankowski, Anna Jermolaewa, Butt Johnson, Franz Kapfer, Martin Kippenberger, Peter Land, Sean Landers, Alexis Rockman, Julian Rosefeldt, Carey Young, 2007, no. 8, p. 122 (illustrated in colour, p. 129).

department

POST-WAR & CONTEMPORARY ART

dimensions

70 7/8 x 59 1/8in. (180 x 150cm.)

literature

B. Huck, “Surprisen. Überraschendes aus der Sammlung Essl”, in Parnass, Vienna 1999 (incorrectly illustrated in colour, p. 141).

P. Kaiser, “The Recollection Issue . The Essl Collection”, in Parabol Art Magazine, Vienna 2007, p. 32 and 53 (illustrated in colour, p. 31).

Martin Kippenberger: Eggman II, exh. cat., New York, Skarstedt Gallery, 2011, fig. 7 (illustrated in colour, p. 6).

provenance

Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne.

Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1996.

special_notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

VAT rate of 20% is payable on hammer price and buyer's premium


*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.


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