Sigmar Polke - Evening & Day Editions London Wednesday, January 21, 2015 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Edition Tangente, Heidelberg, Germany
    Collection W. König, Cologne, Germany
    Galerie Daniel Buchholz, Cologne, Germany
    Galerie Berndt + Krips, Cologne, Germany
    Acquired by the present owner in 1991

  • Exhibited

    London, Tate Gallery, Alibis: Sigmar Polke 1963-2010, 9 Oct 2014 – 8 Feb 2015 (another example exhibited)

  • Literature

    Jürgen Becker and Claus von der Osten 11
    Sigmar Polke: Join the Dots, exh. cat., Liverpool, Tate Liverpool, 1995 (another example illustrated p.49)
    Sigmar Polke: Alchemist, exh. cat., Humlebæk, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2001 (another example illustrated p.38)
    Alibis: Sigmar Polke 1963-2010, New York, Museum of Modern Art, 2014 (another example illustrated p.268)

  • Catalogue Essay

    "Well, if there is anything at all that manifests everything artists are supposed to be or have - the delights in innovation, creativity, spontaneity, productivity, creativity entirely out of oneself, and so on - then it is the potato."

    Sigmar Polke

    In the year of 1969, an appreciation of scientific and technological advancement reached fever-pitch as 500 million viewers watched Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin represent the human race in their first steps on the surface of the Moon. Yet in this same year, Sigmar Polke forwent mechanical mastery to create his ‘mindless apparatus’, the machine with no use: his Apparat, mit dem eine Kartoffel eine andere Kartoffel umkreisen kann. This work comprises of a wooden stool, with a wire threaded through the seat, extending towards the ground. A potato is connected to the bottom of the wire with another potato positioned directly below the centre of the seat. On top of the seat, a tempting, white switch calls to the viewer, which, when pressed, causes the wire to move in circles, swinging the attached potato around the other potato. Thereby the apparatus achieves its absurd function of enabling one potato to orbit another, as if it were the centre of the universe.

    The present lot is evidence of Polke’s anarchic and humorous approach to engaging with Art History. Apparat visually references both Joseph Beuys’s Table with Accumulator, 1958-85, where a battery on top of a table is connected by wires to two clay balls on the floor, and also Marcel Duchamp’s first readymade, Bicycle Wheel, 1913 although Polke has inverted the movement in his work from above the stool (the bicycle wheel revolving) to below (the potatoes orbiting).

    However, the hypnotically entrancing movement of the endlessly circling potato calls to mind more than a complex commentary on the evolution of the readymade by echoing the heroic portrayal of Jean-François Millet’s Potato Planters, c.1861. “Why should the work of a potato planter,” wrote Millet, “be less interesting or less noble than any other activity?” Polke takes this question one step further and asks it of the potato itself, which he saw as having the utmost significance, describing it as “innovating sprout by sprout in a virtual torrent of creativity [bringing] forth the most amazing forms. And what colours!”

    Like Millet, Polke ennobles the unpopular potato, which has been a constant icon throughout his oeuvre, in works such as his satirical painting of Chairman Mao and Lyndon B. Johnson, Potato Heads (Mao & LBJ), 1965 and the 1967 installation, Potato House. In creating a machine with no use, and making the potato the intrinsic part of its spectacle, Polke ultimately elevates the status of the potato far beyond that of its humble origins.


Apparat, mit dem eine Kartoffel eine andere Kartoffel umkreisen kann (Apparatus Whereby One Potato Can Orbit Another)

Wood, battery-driven electric motor, rubber band (plus two spare), wire, and two (exchangeable) potatoes,
78.4 x 39.5 x 39.4 cm (30 7/8 x 15 1/2 x 15 1/2 in.)
signed in black ink on the top, below this, traces of a second signature, a partial date '*969' and the edition number 3/30, from the early part of the edition of 30, registered as number 12/00927 with the artist's estate, with the accompanying Certificate of Authenticity, published by Edition Tangente, Heidelberg (later Edition Staeck) (with their blindstamp on the underside of the seat).

£70,000 - 100,000 Ω♠

Sold for £74,500

Contact Specialist
Robert Kennan
Head of Sale, Editions
+44 207 318 4075

Evening & Day Editions

London Auction 22 January 2015 2pm & 6pm