Sigmar Polke - Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Tuesday, October 14, 2014 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Springer & Winckler Galerie, Berlin
    Private Collection, Rhineland

  • Catalogue Essay

    Schüttbild, painted in 2000, is a magnificent example from the oeuvre of the late Sigmar Polke. The artist’s practice merges numerous art movements of the 20th century - Process Art, Constructivism, Pop, Conceptualism, Neo-Dada, Fluxus. Chaotic and controlled, Polke’s artistic output grasps the social realities of post-War Germany and confronts his country’s baggage while staying highly philosophical and poetic.

    Polke’s body of work has been mapping the cultural landscape he was living in. Being extremely contemporary, the artist transmitted his observations and inspirations from the world around him into his practice. Being tremendously receptive to the modern society and its changes, Polke’s artistic technique, medium, ideas have been very flexible throughout his long career, which led to a vastly varied oeuvre he left behind. The artist’s work is a manifestation of his belief: “You can’t exist in a vacuum, you are rooted in time”. With no distinctive style to be associated with, Polke reinvented the notion of what constitutes artistic practice by constantly evolving and changing, which kept his figure mysterious and not quite pinned down. Multilayered in meaning and greatly diverse in medium that ranges from regular paint to manipulated photographs, toxic chemicals and meteoric dust, Polke’s oeuvre is a reflection of his unique personality, great mind, unique talent and his relationship with the outside world.

    Polke’s work provides social, political, cultural context and makes a bridge between the art history and the present. Though being highly contemporary, the work is rooted in artistic tradition, which brings a certain depth and monumentality to the work. “I like it when my art includes references to the past, to my roots. I cannot forget what my precursors have done. Even if the results look new, as far as I am concerned, as an artist I’m following an academic path. I like tracking down certain pictures, techniques, and procedures. It is a way of understanding what is largely determined by tradition.” (The artist quoted in Exh. Cat., Alibis. Sigmar Polke, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2014, p. 20).

    Schüttbild, translated from German as ‘poured painting’, is a prime example of a later work by Polke where the artist splashes white acrylic paint onto the canvas to create an abstract composition full of movement. Keeping the palette monochrome, Polke uses the white paint with vivid gestural expression. The white is highly contrasted against the night black background, which, together with the brushstrokes’ fluidity, elevates the drama in the picture. Schüttbild is reminiscent of Franz Kline’s abstract paintings from the 1950s, only the reserved version. Here, even though employing traditional media, the artist is keeping in line with his usual spontaneity: “accident, serendipitous or engineered, became the foundation for much of Polke’s late work”. (Holland Cotter, “Found Everything, Tried Everything, All His Own Way”, The New York Times, 17 April 2014)

    In 1961, Polke, aged 20, attended the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, where he studied under Joseph Beuys, one of great influences on his career, and where he was classmates with Gerhard Richter. It was the start of a lifelong friendship and rivalry between the two great German artists. In 1963, Polke and Richter participated in their first joint exhibition “Pop art?... Nouveau-realisme?... Neo Dada?” which was a reaction to American Pop Art. Throughout their respective oeuvres, both artists innovate and modernise the notion of painting, but move in different directions, with Richter taking a more painterly approach, while Polke going more in direction of mixed media. Even though towards later stages in their career, Polke distanced himself from Richter, some of the artists’ output could be closely compared as it bares many similarities. For example, Polke’s photorealist attempt with the use of his famous Rasterbild technique in the Girlfriends I, from 1967, is highly reminiscent of Richter’s photorealist portraits. The same similarity could be traced between the present lot and Richter’s abstract canvases, in particular the black and white Abstract Painting from 1985 (said to be destroyed).

    In 2014, a retrospective featuring 260 works by Polke was staged in the Museum of Modern Art, New York (travelling to Tate Modern, London in October), which has become not only the largest and most important show for the artist but also for the museum. Incorporating works from all periods from Polke’s oeuvre, including photographs, drawing, installation, video, painting, performance and sound art, the show gives the most comprehensive survey of the ever changing persona and allows its visitors to enter the artist’s world that was running parallel to reality while being extremely closely interlinked with it.



acrylic on paper
199.5 x 150 cm (78 1/2 x 59 in.)
Signed and dated 'S. Polke 2000' on the reverse.

£200,000 - 300,000 

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
+44 207 318 4063

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 15 October 2014 7pm