Martin Kippenberger - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Wednesday, March 6, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Video

    'Ohne Titel (Meine Lügen sind ehrliche)' | Martin Kippenberger

    Chairwoman Cheyenne Westphal delves into the striking composition and diverse components of 'Ohne Titel (Meine Lügen sind ehrliche),' which was executed alongside Martin Kippenberger's seminal Hand Painted Pictures series.

  • Provenance

    Galerie Bärbel Grässlin, Frankfurt
    Private Collection, Nagoya
    Sotheby’s, New York, 14 November 2001, lot 57
    Private Collection
    Galerie Bärbel Grässlin, Frankfurt
    Luhring Augustine, New York
    Private Collection (acquired from the above in 2010)
    Sotheby's, London, 17 October 2014, lot 15
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Frankfurt, Galerie Bärbel Grässlin, Broken Centimeters, MM, Ss.Ss.R., 29 July - 5 September 1992
    ZKM Museum für Neue Kunst Karlsruhe, Martin Kippenberger Das 2. Sein, 8 February - 27 April 2003, p. 196
    New York, Luhring Augustine, Twenty Five, 8 May - 19 June 2010
    Portland, Oregon, Portland Art Museum, Martin Kippenberger, 22 October 2011 - 19 February 2012

  • Literature

    Gisela Capitain, Regina Fiorito and Lisa Franzen, eds., Martin Kippenberger Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings, Volume Three: 1987 - 1992, London, 2016, no. MK.P 1992.04, pp. 418-419 (illustrated, p. 419)
    Kippenberger: Hand Painted Pictures, exh. cat., Skarstedt Gallery, New York, 2017, p. 22

  • Catalogue Essay

    Exuding Martin Kippenberger’s distinct eccentricity and raw energy, Ohne Titel (Meine Lügen sind ehrliche), 1992, highlights the multifarious questions that define the artist’s self-portraits. Painted alongside his second major cycle of self-portraits, during his time split between the Greek island of Syros and his Frankfurt studio, the present work was executed in 1992. Moving on from his momentous Picasso self-portraits of 1988, Ohne Titel (Meine Lügen sind ehrliche) delves further into the artist’s psyche whilst presenting his body with unbridled honesty. Other works from the series are held in eminent collections, including the Centre Pompidou, Paris, the Setagaya Art Museum, Tokyo, The Flick Collection, Berlin, as well as the personal collections of Christopher Wool and Richard Prince.

    Inundated with detail, the present portrait is in keeping with Kippenberger’s portrayal of himself as an exposed, candid and pensive subject. Captivated yet simultaneously disenchanted by the ideal of the Romantic genius, Kippenberger’s preoccupation with self-presentation derisively challenges tropes of the artistic ego. From the heraldic poses of his early self-portraits to the vulnerable figures of his ultimate self-incarnation in Ohne Titel (aus der Serie das Floß der Medusa), Kippenberger continuously questions iconic art historical frameworks and deceives the established norms of portraiture in order to elevate the status of the sitter, namely through the use of serialisation.

    Spanning the entirety of his career, the artist’s intensive periods of self-portraiture can be assigned to four crucial years: Lieber Maler male Mir (Dear Painter Paint for Me) in 1981; the remarkable Picasso Portraits of 1988; the Hand Painted Pictures borne whilst the artist was on Syros; and his final coda and epic homage to Théodore Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa from 1996. The cycle of Hand Painted Pictures constitutes a conscious examination of the artist’s past work, referencing in its title the direct connection linking the artist, his persona and his hand. In the present work, the artist plays on the traditional and established principle of authorship. Having notably outsourced a significant amount of his work to assistants in the late 1980s, ‘controlled, but with their own means and talents’, Kippenberger’s Hand Painted Pictures, executed entirely by the artist himself, mark a turning point in his opus (Martin Kippenberger, quoted in Jutta Koether, ‘One Has to Be Able to Take It!’, November 1990 - May 1991 in Ann Goldstein, Martin Kippenberger: The Problem Perspective, exh. cat., The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 2008, p. 316).

    Through the listless form of a skinny legged nude Olympic sprinter, the artist portrays himself in a theatrically troubled contortion, an exaggeratedly cramp pose which conjures the contemplative stature of Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker or Michelangelo’s Crouching Boy. Conversely, Kippenberger's naked and kneeling figure echoes the coiled position of the Android T-800 in the futuristic Terminator films, 1984 and 1991. Unwieldy and troubled, the artist’s figure is squatted in a defensive position, his gaze fixed and arms trailing beneath his idiosyncratic beer-belly, epitomising the artist’s continuous fight with his own self-image. ‘The 1992 self-portraits dealt directly with this… The poses are ridiculous, theatrically contorted, and full of an exaggerated tension; he appears in comic struggle with himself… as a naked thin legged Olympian sprinter, an excellent dancer, and as a melancholic posed between a lifebelt and gallows: Kippenberger as a clown between performance and despair’ (Daniel Baumann, ‘The way you wear your hat’ in: Martin Kippenberger, exh. cat. Kunsthalle Basel, 1998, p. 68).

    At the time of the present work’s execution, the infamy of Kippenberger’s lore was at its height and the artist had withdrawn to Syros, removing himself from the art world. Here, during a lengthy stay with friend Michael Würthle (proprietor of the Paris Bar in Berlin), away from the debauchery of Cologne, Kippenberger produced the present dramatic self-portrait that provides an insight into the artist’s fraught, vulnerable, yet determined state. Significantly, it was in Syros that Kippenberger came to bring two of his most ambitious and ruthless projects to life, his fictional universal subway system Metronet, and the extraordinary Museum of Modern Art Syros, an ephemeral museum set to challenge the traditional concept of the museum, an anti-museum with virtually no artworks and limited visitors.

    As fellow artist Helmut Middendorf recalls, Kippenberger ‘didn’t need all that self-display nonsense’ in Syros. ‘In Berlin and Cologne, it was like they flipped a switch to turn him on and he had to give them the Martin’ (Helmut Middendorf, quoted in Susan Kippenberger, Kippenberger: The Artist and his Families, Berlin, 2007, p. 436). Within the vast landscapes of the island, Kippenberger found a state of calm, referring to the ‘changing acupuncture from coming there + flying warmth – little lightning bolts of good mood beams’ (Martin Kippenberger quoted in, Susan Kippenberger, Kippenberger: The Artist and his Families, Berlin, 2007, p. 436).

    Within the present composition, a lightning bolt strikes the artist’s profile. To the left of his silhouette, the bolt comes down from the heavens, evoking at once Elysium, the ultimate resting place for the souls of the virtuous in Greek mythology, and the arrival of the Android T-800 in the Terminator films. Kippenberger’s crouched figure simulates the pose of the humanoid sent from the future to retroactively change the course of events, destroying the established landscape of his own future existence, and thus engaging in a dialogue relating to reincarnation and survival. Crucial to Kippenberger’s practice lie notions of continuity and change, often embodied by the concept of reincarnation and the recurring motif of the egg. In Ohne Titel (Meine Lügen sind ehrliche), the artist brings his conscious dismissal of an established style and continuous quest to reinvent himself to the fore, asserting that ‘an artist who opposes himself still has the best chances to reach some result’ (Martin Kippenberger, quoted in Jutta Koether, ‘One Has to Be Able to Take It!’, November 1990 - May 1991 in Ann Goldstein, Martin Kippenberger: The Problem Perspective, exh. cat., The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 2008, p. 316).

    Within Kippenberger’s cycle of 36 works, the artist frequently incorporates classical references, underlining the rich influence of Greek antiquity on the origins of Western art history. Through the inclusion of Grecian architecture, mythological sources, poses garnered from Olympic athletes and classical statues, and the bold overlaying of Greek text, the artist anchors his composition to the Greek Island of Syros and the classical tradition. In the present work the text is transliterated, the phrase can be understood as a phonetically written German sentence: Meine Luegen sind ehrlich (my lies are honest ones). Placing what would appear to be a broken column at the fore of the composition, just within reach of his classical, athletic stature, Kippenberger alludes to the virtue of fortitude, a subject often employed by Renaissance artist’s to symbolise courage in times of pain or adversity. In another reading, the pedestal like column reveals itself to be a metal bin alongside the artist’s hunched, vulnerable and ungainly posture.

    Replete with skewed, sardonically assumed classical tropes and references to contemporary culture, the bearded Socratic aesthete, the broken column and the silhouette of the android, the present work is a continuation of the artist’s playful vernacular. In line with his mysterious narrative and contradictory depictions of self, the present sombre, enigmatic and simultaneously vibrant painting retains Kippenberger’s essential message in flux. His perplexing amalgamation of visual sources stimulates an allusion of trickery or chicanery. An electrifying reckoning from the master of self-presentation and pictorial manipulation, Ohne Titel (Meine Lügen sind ehrliche) is simultaneously comical and sombre, earnest and destabilised, underscoring the inseparable bond between ego, life and art for Kippenberger.

Property of an Important Collector


Ohne Titel (Meine Lügen sind ehrliche)

oil on canvas
200 x 240 cm (78 3/4 x 94 1/2 in.)
Painted in 1992.

£3,500,000 - 4,500,000 ‡♠

Sold for £3,815,000

Contact Specialist
Rosanna Widén
Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4060

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 7 March 2019