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  • Provenance

    Max-Ulrich Hetzler GmbH, Stuttgart

  • Exhibited

    Darmstadt, Hessischen Landesmuseum, Schlachtpunk. Malerei der Achtziger Jahre.

  • Literature

    Sascha Anderson, Tiefe Blicke: Kunst der achtziger Jahre aus der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, der DDR, Österreich und der Schweiz, Cologne, 1985, fig. 43 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “If it’s good, it’s beautiful—everything that’s good will be at the end called beautiful. But I like very much if you do things that seem to be forbidden and seem to be impossible, like a test of courage.” ALBERT OEHLEN

    It is immediately apparent that Muschel 2 basks in its deliberate abjectness. This work by German painter Albert Oehlen is characterized by a muddled, lackadaisical application of paint, self-cancelling subject matter, inharmonious combination of drab colours, and overall crude, unfinished air. Yet the painting’s brilliance rests precisely in this intentionally slapdash look, which functions as a clever, ironical attack on the classical tradition of painting, a medium that has perhaps too often been invested with grand notions of permanence, beauty, and truth. A bold assault on good taste and formalism, this painting can also be seen as a brazen rejection of the art market, which has historically coveted works of art demonstrating artistic virtuosity, a refined sensibility, emotional depth, mesmerizing surfaces, and profoundly meaningful or “smart” content.

    Modernism, of course, has always had artists who deployed strategies of negation. Recall poet and thinker Antonin Artaud’s cry for “no more masterpieces,” or artist Marcel Duchamp great offense to institutionalized bourgeois notions of “true” art through his inverted urinal, Fountain (1917). Even fashion has endured such critiques through, for instance, the ever-irreverent punk movement’s embrace of all things low and in the spirit of an anti-establishment ideology. Muschel 2 can therefore be seen as the artist’s critique of the conservative, humanist values represented by the long history of painting. Oehlen’s overturning of painting’s conventions is also the artist’s way of testing the medium’s resilience and limits—a courageous questioning of painting that reflects its indefinite position vis-a-vis the growing dominance of other art forms, such as video, performance, and even internet art.

    Oehlen attended the Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Hamburg, where he studied art under notable painter Sigmar Polke until 1981. His work has been exhibited at major institutions, such as Musee Cantonal Des Beaux Arts in Lausanne, the Renaissance Society in Chicago, the Kunsthalle in Basel, MOCA Miami, the Musee d’ Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

  • Artist Biography

    Albert Oehlen

    Albert Oehlen is a German contemporary artist whose work explores the capabilities and failures of painting in the age of postmodernism. His deconstructed artworks reduce painting to a discordant mixture of its constituent elements—color, gesture, motion, and duration—and celebrate the resulting disharmony as an artistic expedition to the frontiers of the abilities of painting. Oehlen began his career in the art scenes of Cologne and Berlin, becoming associated with the Junge Wilde artists who sought to create works that defied classification and disrupted the artistic status quo. He has carried this sense of rebelliousness into his mature career with works that incorporate digital technologies as well as more traditional media. Oehlen’s paintings are marked by inherent, gleeful contradictions, always wielded with a cavalier confidence in the artist’s prowess – his uncooperative fusions of abstraction and figuration, for example, expose the inefficiencies of each art mode and explore the function of painting as much as its meaning.

    Oehlen has attracted critical praise befitting the innovative nature of his work, and he has been the subject of several major exhibitions at institutions such as the Mumok, Vienna and the New Museum, New York. He lives and works between Bühler, Switzerland.

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Muschel 2

acrylic and metallic spray paint on linen
255.4 x 190.5 cm. (100 1/2 x 75 in.)

£200,000 - 300,000 

Sold for £242,500

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
[email protected]
+44 207 318 4063

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London 16 October 2013