Martin Kippenberger - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Wednesday, June 26, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Galerie Max Hetzler, Cologne
    Rudolf Zwirner, Cologne
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Essen, Museum Folkwang, Wahrheit ist Arbeit. Büttner, Kippenberger, Oehlen, 4 February - 11 March 1984
    Pittsburgh, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh Collects, 20 February - 25 April 1993, n.p.

  • Catalogue Essay

    Exemplary of Martin Kippenberger’s wry wit and painterly gravitas, Die Mutter von Horst spaziert im Spandauer Forst (Horst’s Mother Going for a Walk in the Spandau Woods), 1983-4, reinvents traditional processes of representation that transport the viewer into an alternate universe where effervescent ovals, angles and triangles conflate to present Spandauer Forst, one of Berlin’s largest forests. Through the symbolic and idealised depiction of a bright blue horizon, flanked by the silhouettes of glowing emerald trees, Kippenberger presents the viewer with a surreal panorama, a utopian landscape, or an idyllic forest scene. Testament to the importance of the present work, the painting was included in one of Kippenberger's most important early exhibitions, Wahrheit ist Arbeit, a collaboration with his friends and fellow artists Albert Oehlen and Werner Büttner that took place in 1984 in the Museum Folkwang, Essen.

    Straddling reality and fiction, Kippenberger invites us into his work’s mystifying world through a port-hole: the window to his fabricated paradise. Punctuated by referenceable features from the Forst itself, such as the cloud-like aircraft hovering within the sky, the opaque pool of water and the three towering birch trees, we are, however, forced to reconsider the notion that the composition is born solely of Kippenberger’s imagination. Washes of grey, orange and blue merge to form a misty setting, the anchor from which the nature reserve is projected. The result is a surreal yet captivating work which radiates with the intensity of the world in which it was created.

    Employing his favoured ovoid form as a portal into his dreamlike landscape, Kippenberger introduces the subject of his later Eierbilder (Egg paintings), a monumental cycle of paintings that would use the theme of the egg in its literal and symbolic reading. Musing on the importance of the ovoid form, the artist noted: ‘In painting you have to be on the lookout: what windfall is still left for you to paint. Justice hasn't been done to the egg, justice hasn’t been done to the fried egg, Warhol's already had the banana. So you take a form, it's always about sharp edges, a square, this and this format, the golden section. An egg is white and flat, how can that turn into a coloured picture? If you turn it around this way and that, you’ll come up with something. Maybe even social politics, or jokes; whatever the case it’s a beautiful form’ (Martin Kippenberger, quoted in Martin Kippenberger, exh. cat., Tate, London, 2006, p. 63). This ‘beautiful’ form, as noted by the artist, has an important art historical and symbolic legacy, potently signifying hope and fertility, the a cycle of new life. In the present work, Kippenberger’s egg form remains elusive, a mere suggestion towards what later became a fully formed symbol and pattern in his later canvases.

    Clearly returning to the same iconography throughout his oeuvre, Kippenberger allows the viewer to interpret each of his creations within the context of his career as a whole. As the artist celebrated the notion of confusion and ambiguity in meaning in his work, making subtle or obvious allusions to friends, acquaintances, architectural models, and art history, Kippenberger herein probes the question of who might be the figure - real or imagined - behind the titular Horst. More context could indicate the artist’s peer Horst Gläsker, a fellow artist and acquaintance working amongst the Junge Wilden in Dusseldorf in the 1970s and 80s; or perhaps something else altogether, held in confidence within Kippenberger’s intimate realm.

    Against the Socialist, Communist and Utopian ideologies that flourished in the 1960s, Kippenberger transformed the diminished role of the artist into something fantastic, complex and theatrical. Consistently discarding the notion that an artist works to create a signature style, the artist forged a personality that worked across multiple directions and often eschewed easy comprehension. On the artist’s boundless vision, Jerry Saltz aptly noted, ‘Kippenberger instinctively grasped that ideologies and hierarchies were moribund, that formalism and technique are flexible and that one can be idealistic without being utopian’ (Jerry Saltz, ‘The Artist Who Did Everything, Artnet, March 2009, online). Commenting on his transcendence of the ‘painter’ status, the artist noted, ‘I’m rather like a travelling salesman. I deal in ideas. I am far more to people than someone who paints pictures’ (Martin Kippenberger, quoted in Martin Kippenberger, exh. cat., Tate, London, 2006, p. 31).

    The surreal landscape of the present work, along with its hazy background produced through a liberal application of paint, is characteristic of Kippenberger’s capricious style. Juxtaposing unruly passages of colour with decidedly measured and conscious tones, the artist nods to the paintings of his peer, band-mate and close friend Albert Oehlen. Both Kippenberger and Oehlen, through their distinct styles, used the canvas as a platform to serve their vibrant cultural commentary, oscillating between playfulness and institutional critique.

    In the years directly preceding the present work, Kippenberger worked on his celebrated Lieber Maler, male mir (Dear Painter, paint for me) series. This cycle of paintings, the antecedent to the present work, was painted by Mr Werner, a sign painter based in Berlin whom Kippenberger hired to create canvases based on provided images. This rebellious act, a direct retort to the prevailing painterly style of the time and the gestural sensibility of Helmut Middendorf and Reiner Fetting, emphasised Kippenberger’s position as a conceptual master within the avant-garde. Die Mutter von Horst spaziert im Spandauer Forst, marrying the obscure and the reachable, imagination and truth, is a masterful return to painting by the rebellious artist, underscoring Kippenberger’s exceptional painterly skill whilst holding on to his conceptual genius.

Property from the Collection of Konrad and Gisela Weis


Die Mutter von Horst spaziert im Spandauer Forst

oil, lacquer and spray paint on canvas, in artist's frame
135.9 x 163.5 cm (53 1/2 x 64 3/8 in.)
Painted in 1983-84.

£350,000 - 550,000 ‡♠

Sold for £356,250

Contact Specialist

Rosanna Widén

Director, Senior Specialist
Head of Evening Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

44 20 7318 4060

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 27 June 2019