Sigmar Polke - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale London Wednesday, October 3, 2018 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Galerie Fred Jahn, Munich
    Acquired from the above by the late owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    We are most grateful to Mr. Michael Trier, Artistic Director from the Estate of Sigmar Polke, for his assistance.

    The following selection of works, predominantly from the 1960’s, offer an exciting introduction to Sigmar Polke's early work and establishment of his iconic style. Executed at the height of Polke’s involvement with ‘Capitalist Realism,’ the ironic German branch of Pop Art he founded with Konrad Lueg (later Konrad Fischer) and Gerhard Richter in 1963, these works are united by Polke’s specific preference to join the apparently disparate on every conceivable level. Perceptive and comical observations on postwar politics and consumer society, the works of the Capitalist Realists were a direct contrast to the glossy Pop Art of Andy Warhol in America. Unlike Warhol and later Claus Oldenburg who had used the ballpoint pen from 1956 to lend their drawings an immediacy and freshness, Polke used the same medium to reinforce the impression of artless banality, executed with childlike innocence.

    In contradiction to the unselfconscious childlike execution, Die Luftlandedivision 1FC. Klön exemplifies Polke’s explicit political commentaries. Born in East Germany, moving West when he was twelve, Polke had experienced the aftermath of the war on both sides of the wall. ‘Die Luftlandedivision’ (The airborne division) exposes the dualism and divide between East and West Germany: Floating below the parachuting heads, the words 'Die Luftlandedivision' highlight Polke’s sardonic wit and subversive approach to political commentary.

    Rudimentary markings of an elephant and palm tree deliberately evoke children’s drawings in Ohne Titel (Elefant und Palme), simultaneously conjuring the jewel-like quality of Polke’s stained glass painting training in the wonderfully placed expanse of yellow pigment. Ironically alluding to the tourist industry's promise of an exotic holiday escape for hardworking West Germans, Polke used the palm tree throughout his works 'like a leitmotif’ (Alibis SIGMAR POLKE 1963-2010, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2014, p. 35). Deliberately displacing elements over the picture surface, large spaces occupy much of Polke’s works from this period. Often as oversized margins, these borders emphasise Polke’s images as visual quotations, presented as if cut out from magazines or newspapers.

    Deeply critical of the role of printed media, deemed a cheap and powerful socialising force, the thin newsprint Polke chose to work on, often with irregular torn edges and easy to wrinkle, augments his beliefs.
    Continuing to emulate and twist social themes in the press, Polke translated the intimate relations which were readily strewn across news pages into contrasted caricatural silhouettes. Ohne Titel (Fräulein mit Kartoffelkopf) (Reihe Duo) amusingly replaces the man with a figure from Polke’s ‘potato-head’ series. The female face is depicted looking outwards; her hair styled and face fully made-up; heavily shadowed eyes and painted mouth closed. Polke’s exploration of the attitudes towards separation and mutual indifference is exemplified in these unusual disparate pairings and physically divided here by the vertical barrier of black ink.

    As well as creating physical divides in his work to highlight his social beliefs, from the 1960’s, the importance of line was a driving force throughout Polke’s inventive oeuvre, creating a spirit of unpredictability. Ohne Titel, circa 1965 explores the application of line, colour and composition on the bare page. The continuing importance of line, experimentation and element of fun is demonstrated in Polke’s Ohne Titel painting circa 1972 when Polke was exploring the realms of photography and the effects of LSD. Brilliantly bright and playful, Polke incorporates glitter and spray paint, exemplifying the evident joy of discovering new materials and pigments.

    Engaging, intriguing and exciting, the present works crucially reflect how Polke ironically reflected the world around him. Through an unconventional aesthetic and experimentational technique Polke posed a cold investigation into his country’s sociocultural and economic climate and the political and commercial uses of representation.

A Tale of Two Cities: Property from the Estate of Howard Karshan


Ohne Titel

signed 'Sigmar Polke' on the reverse
acrylic, spray paint, metallic paint, glitter and wooden keys on canvas
50 x 40 x 2.5 cm (19 5/8 x 15 3/4 x 0 7/8 in.)
Executed circa 1972.

£40,000 - 60,000 

Sold for £50,000

Contact Specialist
Tamila Kerimova
Specialist, Head of Day Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4065

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

London Auction 4 October 2018