Kiki Kogelnik - New Now London Thursday, December 8, 2022 | Phillips

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  • “She was not Pop, she was strictly Kiki”
    —Tom Wesselmann

    Internationally renowned as one of Austria’s most significant Pop artists, Kiki Kogelnik’s work is at once playful and political, characterised by a bold, neon palette and lively exchanges between abstract and more figurative impulses. Rooted in the traditions of European modernism, Kogelnik quickly absorbed the new currents of American pop art after relocating to New York in 1962, making a home amongst a community of artists including, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, and Tom Wesselmann.


    Executed in 1962 at the outset of this exciting new chapter, Melancholie is highly characteristic of Kogelnik’s work from this period, its vibrant colours and flat, floating motifs embodying what Otto Mauer, the founder of Galerie nächst St. Stephan in Vienna where Kogelnik had her first solo exhibition in 1961, described as the artist’s balance of artificiality and joyful exuberance, like the ‘thousand lively colours of Broadway in New York.’¹


    One of a smaller number of women working in a Pop idiom during the United States at this time, Kogelnik’s works also record the influence of the growing feminist movement, the artist moving away from the Pop’s more familiar focus on commodity consumption and the language of advertising in favour of a more nuanced critique of mechanisation and the impact of capitalist modes of production on conceptions of the female body. Interested in science and technology, Kogelnik’s humorous compositions explored the visual possibilities introduced by a range of new materials including plastics and vinyl, found objects that she used in her assemblages and in the formation of her distinctly flat, weightless forms including the skulls and limbs evident in the present work.


    Despite these more playful elements, Kogelnik’s work from the early 1960s also record the shadow of nuclear threat and the omnipresent atmosphere of Cold War politics, as detailed in anxious letters back to her mother in Austria. Typical of her paintings from this period, the bombs and skulls featured in Melancholie speaks directly to these pervasive concerns, and to the angsty underside of American post-war optimism that must certainly have reminded Kogelnik of her upbringing in war-torn Europe.


    Now recognised as a hugely significant figure in post-war art, Kogelnik has been honoured in more recent years with major solo shows with Kunsthall Stavanger, Norway; Modern Art Oxford, UK; and Kunstverein in Hamburg, her work ‘with its wry feminist critique of Cold War technopolitics as much in tension as in sync with Pop’s silvery lunar utopia.’² Included in several group survey shows complicating more straightforward narratives of post-war Pop art, Kogelnik has also been the subject of two major retrospectives in Austria to date, with a third planned for 2023 to be presented by the Bank Austria Kunstforum Wein.


    Stephen Hepworth, Director of Kiki Kogelnik Foundation, talks about the life and work of Kiki Kogelnik, and her exhibition Riot of Objects at MOSTYN, Wales, 2020.


    ¹ Otto Mauer, quoted in Stephen Hepworth, Kiki Kogelnik: Falling, (exh. cat.), Los Angeles, 2021, online.

    ² Sarah Wilson, ‘Kiki Kogelnik, Modern Art Oxford’, Artforum, January 2016, online.

    • Provenance

      König Galerie, Berlin
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2015

    • Literature

      Kiki Kogelnik: Falling, exh. cat., Kayne Griffin, Los Angeles, 2021, p. 19 (illustrated)



signed and dated 'Kiki Kogelnik 1962' on the reverse
oil and acrylic on canvas
122.3 x 91.6 cm (48 1/8 x 36 1/8 in.)
Painted in 1962.

Full Cataloguing

£30,000 - 50,000 ‡♠

Sold for £220,500

Contact Specialist

Charlotte Gibbs
Associate Specialist, Head of New Now
+44 20 7901 7993


New Now

London Auction 8 December 2022