Martin Kippenberger - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale London Thursday, October 14, 2021 | Phillips

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  • A photograph taken in the early 1980s shows Ohne Titel  hung upon the wall of Martin Kippenberger’s studio in Cologne. The graphic quality of the painting, expressed in contrasting tones of red, white, and black, exudes a lively energy as it frames the figure of the German artist at work. Kippenberger understood artmaking to be a deeply emotional process: ‘When I’m producing things I’m extremely sentimental. And if it works, I become positively slushy’.i His decision to display Ohne Titel in his studio during this period, and to later part with it as a gift, suggests the significance of the work to the artist.


    Martin Kippenberger in his studio with the present work. Image courtesy of Wendelin Bottländer
    Martin Kippenberger in his studio with the present work. Image courtesy of Wendelin Bottländer

    Kippenberger’s oeuvre is famously diverse in style, technique and subject matter. He worked widely across mediums including sculpture, installation, painting, and drawing. The prolific nature of his artistic production makes it challenging to distil the character of his creative output. Indeed, he recalls that early in his career the ‘hardest thing was finding my own style. I got very stuck until I suddenly realised that having no style is also a style, so that’s what I did. That set me free’.ii Despite the artist’s self-fashioned stylistic variation across his twenty-year career, certain motifs permeate his body of work. Ohne Titel  illustrates one of these recurring subjects: the Ford Capri.

    The pseudo-European sportscar, made in America for export to northern European markets in the 1970s and 1980s, was a perfect symbol for Kippenberger. He revelled in humorous contradictions and was amused by the way the glamour of Capri had been monetised for the German middle classes. Cast as an open-ended and ambiguous symbol, the car became a rich source of inspiration for the artist in the 1980s, serving as both painted subject and the raw material for sculptural works and installations.


    A 1970s advert for the Ford Capri. © The Advertising Archives / Bridgeman Images

    In the present work, a black car is dwarfed by an oversized signpost pointing in the direction of ‘Sibirien’ (Siberia). The disproportionate scale of the signpost and the surreal red of the houses, grouped with fir trees against the cloudy snow-white sky, do not strive for reality. Instead, anticipating contemporary landscape artists such as Peter Doig, Kippenberger presents a psychologically rich setting. Intervening in the national tradition of German Romantic painting, the isolated figure set within a sublime vista is replaced with the Capri. With the car facing in the opposite direction to the signpost, the meaning of the imagery is purposefully ambiguous and open-ended. Siberia, understood as an idiomatic shorthand for a ‘no-where-land’ in many Western European cultures, encapsulates a place of remote isolation from which the car may be returning. Yet, the black vehicle is simultaneously estranged from the homely domesticity of the houses by the criss-crossed fence that cuts horizontally across the composition between the road and the dwellings. The charmingly naïve depiction of the setting contributes to the wry humour wielded by Kippenberger to self-consciously ‘compound some really lovely misunderstanding’ for his viewers.iii'Art is, in fact, always viewed after the fact, from outside, seldom at the moment it’s created- I’d say twenty years after. After that, one finally determines what effect the work and the artist had. How people then will talk about me or won’t talk about me, that’s what will count.'
    —Martin Kippenberger
    As with many artists who predominantly participated in subcultures during their lifetime, the ground-breaking nature of Kippenberger’s work has only been fully recognised posthumously. He might have unabashedly declared ‘everybody knows I’m the one who covered the eighties’, but it took almost a decade following his premature death in 1997 for the Tate Modern, London, to hold the first UK retrospective of the German artist. The 2006 exhibition was followed two years later by the first US retrospective of his work at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Alongside fellow artists Albert Oehlen and Günther Förg, Martin Kippenberger is now widely recognised as a key figure who emerged from the towering shadow of Joseph Beuys in the German art scene of the 1970s and 1980s. As exemplified by Ohne Titel, his experimentation with stylistic variation, expressed through a bold, playful aesthetic, has asserted his significance in recent art history.


    An installation view of Martin Kippenberger: The Problem Perspective at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, 2009, demonstrates the significance of the Ford Capri within the artist’s diverse output.

    i Martin Kippenberger, exh. cat., Tate Modern, London, 2006, p. 65
    ii Martin Kippenberger, exh. cat., Tate Modern, London, 2006, p. 59
    iii Martin Kippenberger, exh. cat., Tate Modern, London, 2006, p. 64
    iv Martin Kippenberger: The Problem Perspective, exh. cat., The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 2008, p. 313

    • Provenance

      Gifted by the artist to the present owner in 1993

    • Literature

      Martin Kippenberger: The Problem Perspective, exh. cat., The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 2008, pp. 30-31 (illustrated)


Ohne Titel

signed, dedicated and dated 'FUR BLONdiE M Kippenberger 85' on the reverse
oil on canvas
75.5 x 90.6 cm (29 3/4 x 35 5/8 in.)
Painted in 1982.

This work will be included in the forthcoming Martin Kippenberger Catalogue Raisonné, listed with the confirmed date of the work as painted in 1982.

Full Cataloguing

£100,000 - 150,000 ‡♠

Contact Specialist

Tamila Kerimova
Specialist, Director, Head of Day Sale

20th Century & Contemporary Art

+44 20 7318 4065

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

London Auction 14 October 2021