Martin Kippenberger - Modern & Contemporary Art: Evening & Day Sale London Thursday, June 27, 2024 | Phillips
  • “I declared a painting ban for myself, I let someone else paint for me.”
    —Martin Kippenberger

    A provocative personality, incessantly challenging and dismantling formal convention, throughout his tragically short yet prodigious career,  Martin Kippenberger approached art with an unparalleled vigour and audacity. Ceaselessly moving between styles, countries, and professions, life and art were inextricable for Kippenberger. The first canvas from the groundbreaking Lieber Maler, male mir series to come to auction in a decade, Untitled demonstrates Kippenberger's witty critique of the cult of the artist on an expansive scale, themes that deeply grounded in the artist's practice. 



    In the Lieber Maler, male mir (‘Dear painter, paint for me’) series, Kippenberger resolutely rejected the notion of single authorship associated between painter and painting. Selecting some staged and other existing photographs, Kippenberger then enlisted the assistance of commercial painter ‘Mr Werner’ who worked for a Berlin company that produced advertising billboards and cinema posters, creating the series of twelve monumental paintings. Painted in 1981 and produced in grisaille, with high contrast and sharp highlights, the viewer becomes a voyeur, confronted with the  immediacy of intimacy between the couple. Each passionately entangled, the image’s amorous charge is juxtaposed with the more quotidian paintings of still-lifes, animals, and street scenes across the series.  


    Responding to the re-emergence of an expressive mode of painting among German artists such as Georg Baselitz and Anselm Kiefer during the 1980s, in Untitled Kippenberger subverts the primacy of the individual artist’s hand traditionally ascribed to works of art. Instead, Kippenberger believed the creative process could include multiple agents, a working method the artist continued to explore in his later years. As Ann Goldstein continues, ‘For Kippenberger the act of selection was at the core of his practiceit was synonymous with making the work’.i Parallel to John Baldessari’s employment of professional painters to produce his text-paintings in the late 1960s, Kippenberger simultaneously complicated the categories of ‘technician’ and ‘artist’, ‘commercial’ and ‘fine art’, typically viewed as mutually exclusive. As Baldessari had added the caption ‘a painting by’ to credit the maker, Untitled was first presented using the combined name ‘Werner Kippenberger’ as a way of marking the unorthodox collaboration. In writing, Kippenberger heralded ‘Meister Werner’ as the ‘star of stars’, to be celebrated through his first ‘indoor’ exhibition.ii

    “I drew my way through all the art books on the book shelves.”
    —Martin Kippenberger

    Fundamental to Kippenberger’s aesthetic ethos was a renunciation of a fixed visual language, exploring ideas around plurality and singularity through his artistic style and collaborative approach. Though Untitled resembles the uncanny ambiance and realism of Gerhard Richter’s Photo Pictures, the canvas is among the many diverse styles and mediums that unfold from the artist’s vast oeuvre, spanning installations, drawings, posters, photography, sculpture, and collage. ‘Working [his] way through art history’ by pivoting from one movement to the next, it was from childhood in a home filled with prints, ranging from “the German Expressionists”, “Marino Marini” to the “kitsch” that provided Kippenberger the environment to voraciously and inexhaustibly produce art.iii In this way, Untitled encompasses the distinctly radical and varied approach of Kippenberger: a bold reconsideration of painting’s foundations and the role of the artist.


    Collector’s Digest


    • Restlessly inventive and embroiled in a range of creative pursuits from working as an actor, musician, writer and club manager as well as a painter, Kippenberger is associated with the enfants terribles of the German art scene during the 1970s, like his friend and frequent collaborator, Albert Oehlen.

    • Offered for the first time at auction, Untitled belongs to Kippenberger’s infamous Lieber Maler, male mir series. A seminal body of work in the composition of contemporary art today, a sister work from the series depicting a nonchalant Kippenberger sat on a New York street corner currently resides in the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

    • During his lifetime and since his untimely death in 1997, Martin Kippenberger has been exhibited extensively, averaging one show a month during the 1990s. Last year from 9 March to 6 May in New York, Skarstedt mounted a solo show of Kippenberger’s paintings, in honour of what would have been the artist’s 70th birthday on the 25 February.



    i Ann Goldstein, ‘The Problem Perspective’, Martin Kippenberger: The Problem Perspective, exh. cat., The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 2008, p. 60.

    ii Martin Kippenberger, quoted in Alison Gingeras, ‘Lieber Maler, male Mir (Dear painter, paint for me)’, Martin Kippenberger: Lieber Maler, male Mir (Dear painter, paint for me), exh. cat., Gagosian, New York, 2005, p. 9.

    iii Martin Kippenberger, quoted in Daniel Baumann, ‘Parachever Picasso/Completing Picasso’, Martin Kippenberger, exh. cat., Tate, London, 2006, p. 59.

    • Provenance

      Private Collection, Berlin
      Hauser & Wirth, Zürich
      Private Collection, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Venice, Museo Correr, Pittura / Painting: From Rauschenberg to Murakami 1964-2003, 15 June-2 November 2003, p. 11 (illustrated)
      New York, Gagosian, Lieber Maler, male Mir (Dear painter, paint for me), 8 March-23 April 2005, pp. 36, 45 (illustrated, p. 37)


Untitled (from the Dear Painter, Paint For Me series)

acrylic on canvas
180 x 220 cm (70 7/8 x 86 5/8 in.)
Painted in 1981.

Full Cataloguing

£250,000 - 350,000 ‡♠

Contact Specialist

Louise Simpson
Associate Specialist
+44 7887 473 568

Modern & Contemporary Art: Evening & Day Sale

London Auction 27 June 2024