AN IMPORTANT COLLECTION OF SELF-PORTRAITS
In an unprecedented event, Christie's is offering an important collection of self-portraits, including twelve works on paper, one multiple sculpture and the seminal oil on canvas, Untitled (from the series Hand-Painted Pictures) (1992), previously exhibited in the major retrospectives of the artist's work held at the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris in 1993, Tate Modern, London in 2006, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and The Museum of Modern Art, New York in 2009. Assembled over the course of a twenty-five year friendship, this collection belongs to someone who knew the artist so well, that his works offer a unique insight and portrait of the artist. Charismatic and irreverent, Martin Kippenberger is remembered for his conceptual and expressive transformation of the 1980s and 1990s artscene. Waging a one-man assault against the art world's status quo, Kippenberger was bent on destabilizing the post-War German paradigm, with its prescriptions for style and ideology. Employing multiple media and techniques, Kippenberger's art offered an itinerant sensibility, a programmatic 'stylessness' and iconoclasm for which any subject was game. At the heart of his prodigious output lies the artist's own ebullient, exuberant character, most powerfully and famously articulated in his self-portraits. For Kippenberger, the self-portrait was no exercise in hubris; instead it offered an inglorious, bathetic tool, cracking a shot at the artistic institution.
The unique group being offered are all situated around the landmark series of self-portraits: Lieber Maler, Male Mir (Dear Painter, Paint For Me) (1981), the Picasso paintings (1988) and Hand-Painted Pictures (1992), whichanchor Kippenberger's practice. Together they constitute a survey of the artist's life, charting his changing faces and the facets of his character up until 1996, the year before his untimely death. In the early 1970s in works such as Octagonal Drawing (1970-1975), we see Kippenberger revelling in his skilled draftsmanship, actively referring back to line drawings undertaken by Albrecht Drer and seeking to be the paradigmatic artist. In a case of art mirroring life however, the works on paper transform over time, reflecting the profound shifts occurring in Kippenberger's personal realm. In Untitled (1988) Kippenberger presents himself in front of a mirror, his side profile revealing the now ungainly paunch in all its glory. Influenced by a photograph of the ultimate Modern icon, Pablo Picasso, captured in his seventies in a 'puffed-up' state of undress, Kippenberger began to create these ironic images parodying his famous antecedent and playfully subverting the so-called 'cult of the artist'. In Untitled (1990), we encounter the artist, hands clasped behind his back, standing in the corner like a scolded schoolboy. Untitled expertly recreates in two dimensions the iconic sculpture Martin, Into the Corner, You Should be Ashamed of Yourself one of which is held in the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Flushed as if in embarrassment, the pate of his head and intertwined palms are rendered in a bright vermillion orange pencil. As Ann Temkin has noted, depicting the artist as isolated and alone in the corner of a room, Kippenberger was 'deftly setting into a contemporary vernacular the Romantic identification of the artist as outcast, whether genius, prophet, beggar, or madman' (A. Temkin, The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York, 2007, p. 89).
A masterpiece of Kippenberger's oeuvre, Untitled (1992) represents the apogee of the artist's self-portraiture, belonging to the prodigious series of Hand-Painted Pictures exhibited at Galerie Max Hetzler in 1992. In this painting, Kippenberger presents himself in a heroic pose, holding his hands: the tools of his trade, aloft like a champion boxer. Emerging from a sea of brilliant, abstract brushstrokes Kippenberger has painted a trinity of figurative elements with the greatest of clarity: the artist's two expertly realised hands and carefully modulated face offering an almost sculptural quality. At the same time, the unflinching gaze and stark presentation has a Byzantine air, reminiscent of a religious icon. This effect is reinforced by the painted, Greek-Cyrillic letters encircling the figure's head. This laurel, carefully transliterated from French reads, Enfant Terrifik: a play on the phrase l'enfant terrible often lent to a strikingly candid or unorthodox character. Throughout his lifetime, Kippenberger rejoiced in playing up the stereotypes of the artist: the artist as drunk, as showman, as jester. In Untitled, Kippenberger is seen confronting these axioms through the medium of paint.
'The fulcrum of his artistic ideas was his own persona. It was always the person Martin Kippenberger that faced up to everyday reality. He described himself as 'one of you' and declared that 'every artist is also a human being', turning Beuys's famous dictum the other way. His own individuality, with all its vulnerability and particular life circumstances served as a source of inspiration for his art' (E. Meyer-Hermann, 'Yes, I am also a woman. Tragedies of the Flesh', Kippenberger Meets Picasso, exh. cat., Museo Picasso, Mlaga 2011, p. 63).
'I once mentioned to [Kippenberger] that I had heard that one could see from painted hands whether someone could really paint. We were standing in front of one of my self-portraits where the hands were really bad. He wanted to go one better' (A. Oehlen quoted in A. Goldstein, 'The Problem Perspective', Martin Kippenberger: The Problem Perspective, exh. cat., The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles 2008, p. 92).
A masterpiece of Martin Kippenberger's oeuvre, Untitled (1992) presents a heraldic, life-size self-portrait of the artist, emerging out of a sea of abstract brushstrokes. With the tools of his trade: his artist's hands held aloft, he appears like a champion boxer. At the same time his face, rendered with brilliant clarity, brings the viewer up close and personal with the charismatic artist. Previously exhibited in the major retrospectives of the artist's work held at the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris in 1993, Tate Modern, London in 2006, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and The Museum of Modern Art, New York in 2009, the painting belongs to a rare and outstanding group of self-portraits that came to define the Kippenberger's career; many of which are now held in major private and public collections including Annick and Anton Herbert, Christopher Wool and Charline von Heyl, the Flick Collection and Centre Georges Pompidou. Bathetic and irreverent, his greatest self-portraits transformed the artistic milieu, unsettling pre-existing prescriptions for the genre and expectations of artistic self-presentation. Together the pivotal series: Lieber Maler, Male Mir (Dear Painter, Paint For Me) (1981), the Picasso paintings (1988) and Hand-Painted Pictures (1992) anchor his life and practice, recording events as they unfurled with the passage of time. 'Art was not a reflection of his life, it was his life' Susanne Kippenberger recalled shortly after her brother's death, and in Untitled we are invited to enter into this privileged space (S. Kippenberger, 'Heimweh Highway or: Start Simple Get Home', D. Krystof & J. Morgan, Martin Kippenberger, exh. cat., Tate Modern, London 2006, p. 53). In Untitled Kippenberger has painted a trinity of figurative elements with the greatest of alacrity: the artist's two expertly realised hands and carefully modulated face offering an almost sculptural quality. Painted on the island of Syros, Greece in 1992, the unflinching gaze and stark presentation of Untitled has a Byzantine air, reminiscent of a religious icon. This effect is reinforced by the painted, Greek-Cyrillic letters encircling the figure's head. This laurel tracing the shape of an egg (the artist's symbolic alter-ego), carefully transliterates from French the words Enfant Terrifik: a play on the phrase l'enfant terrible often lent to a strikingly candid or unorthodox character. Throughout his lifetime, Kippenberger rejoiced in playing up the stereotypes of the artist: the artist as drunk, as showman, as jester. In Untitled, Kippenberger is seen confronting these axioms through the medium of paint.
Over the course of a decade, Kippenberger undertook some of his most defining works as part of the Lieber Maler, Male Mir (Dear Painter, Paint For Me) (1981) series, the Picasso paintings (1988) and Hand- Painted Pictures (1992). Landmark self-portraits emerged from these groups, vivifying the genre for a new generation. For the Dear Painter, paint for me suite begun in 1981, Kippenberger employed a posterpainter known only as Werner to meticulously reproduce in paint those photographs and private snapshots captured during a trip to New York in 1979. Eschewing any interaction with the canvas, Kippenberger renounced his own hand in the making of the artwork. From this series there are perfected images of the artist, sitting casually on a discarded sofa on a street corner, or leaning up against an East German boundary. This was the beginning of the artist's investigations and ultimately his deconstruction of the hallowed 'cult of the artist'.
In the series of works alluding to Picasso that were to follow in 1988, Kippenberger took this project further, looking to the ultimate Modern icon as a contemporary foil. Restaging the well-known photograph of Picasso standing in a 'puffed-up' state of undress on the steps of Château Vauvenargues in 1962, Kippenberger was parodying his famous antecedent, playfully subverting the machismo associated with the genre of self-portraiture. First adopted as a motif in his 1988 series of self-portraits undertaken in Carmona, Spain, Kippenberger depicted himself with white briefs pulled up high over his exaggerated belly, as he turned to examine himself in a mirror. In four of these masterful, large-scale paintings, the artist carried out his torso with duteous care, reminiscent of the earlier photorealist series. This skilled attention to detail is palpable in Untitled, where the features of the face and dexterity of the hands are transmitted to paint with perfection, intermingling with bravura of vibrant brush strokes.
In another of Kippenberger's self-portraits from 1988, influenced by Picasso's Portrait of Carlota Valdivia (La Celestina) (1903), there is a sense of painterly liberation translated into the vibrant blue paint surface. Half man, half skeleton, the artist emerges from the inky background, his hands and head creating a triumvirate at the centre of the painting. This figurative triangle and the expressive freedom is taken much further in Untitled (1992) and the Hand-Painted Pictures carried out the same year. The series was painted on Syros, during Kippenberger's sojourn to the island with his friend, Michel Würthle. Würthle was Kippenberger's closest confident and proprietor of the infamous Paris Bar in Berlin, which was both local haunt and home to the itinerant artist. The island of Syros, the future location of the satirical Museum of Modern Art Syros (MOMAS) (1993), had a profound impact upon Kippenberger. The codified fragments of Greek-Cyrillic text found in some of the series, spelling out confounding and enigmatic titles such as: 'Suspicion of Complicity', 'Destroy what Destroys You', 'Plea for Peace' or 'Nobody Helps Anybody' are references to this time spent in the Aegean. Throughout the works, poses from classical disciplines including running, shot-put and discus throwing; motifs native to Greece, the birthplace of the modern Olympic Games, burst through abstract, coloured grounds. In Untitled, Kippenberger's figure is the boxer-cum- vanquisher who emerges from a Mediterranean Sea, the resolve behind the eyes and the strength bound into each clenched fist captivating the viewer.
In Untitled, Kippenberger has employed raw, impulsive brushstrokes to create a deeply expressive self-portrait. With unbridled temerity, the artist applies vivid, Fauvist colour to canvas: cadmium yellow, cyan blue and a combustive vermillion red. A smooth steel blue dominates the background with areas of bare canvas breaking through to reveal flashes of white. In the lower portion of the painting, steel blue gives way to a deep aquamarine with wild horizontal and vertical gestures traversing the canvas. The figure itself is established with confidence: bold wedges of yellow illuminating the shoulder, forearm and the hilt of his belly, whilst blue and green adorn his undercarriage. The eye is captivated by Kippenberger's gestural maelstrom, as paint bleeds into paint and areas of impasto cling to the surface of the canvas. Sitting atop the bared torso, Kippenberger has rendered the head and facial featureswith unwavering attention. Realised in madder pink and sanguine red, the face appears flushed, wrought with tension as the brows furrow together. The nose protrudes above the pursed lips, whilst the chin is covered in a rough, stubble beard.
Pseudo-athlete, the figure in Untitled also recalls the irreverent, Christlike imagery Kippenberger employed in his Fred the Frog series, openly debasing the crucifixion and employing a cartoon-like proxy for a selfportrait. As Manfred Hermes wrote, 'the cross the artist has to bear is not meant in a blasphemous sense, let alone as a sacrificial image. On the contrary, the artist's cross is the challenging dialectic of give-andtake, bearable only with irony' (M. Hermes quoted in A. Goldstein, 'The Problem Perspective', Martin Kippenberger: The Problem Perspective, exh. cat., The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles 2008, p. 92). In Untitled, the spotted clusters of impasto in sanguine red allude to the= violence of the stigmata, hidden in the centre of the artist's clenched hands.
In this work, the artist's approach resonates not only with Picasso, but with Oskar Kokoschka and his own delicate depictions of the hand. During this period of Kippenberger's career, the hand took on particular prominence in his practice, recurring as the focal point of numerous paintings from the Hand-Painted Pictures series: the open palms with taught, curled fingers which Kippenberger examines from above, or the gripped hands crushing eggs (Christopher Wool and Charline von Heyl Collection). In a cheerful anecdote, the artist's friend Albert Oehlen later recounted: 'I once mentioned to [Kippenberger] that I had heard that one could see from painted hands whether someone could really paint. We were standing in front of one of my self-portraits where the hands were really bad. He wanted to go one better' (A. Oehlen, quoted in A. Goldstein, 'The Problem Perspective', Martin Kippenberger: The Problem Perspective, exh. cat., The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles 2008, p. 92). Beyond this friendly competition with his colleague, the hand served a more significant function for Kippenberger, acting as asymbolic marker and comment upon the identity of the artist. Embodied in the title of the series, 'Hand-Painted Pictures', Kippenberger was challenging the notion of artistic authorship and authenticity. In Untitled, the expressive, painterly aesthetic is both an effective, incisive tool for creating the self-portrait and a roguish parody of the Neo-Expressionist paradigm.
Throughout his career, Kippenberger continually embraced art historical quotation in order to make a provocative contemporary statement. He recognised the painted self-portrait as an old-fashioned, perhaps even anachronistic genre, and so recycled art historical imagery as an ironic strategy. In his last series, Das Floss der Medusa (The Raft of Medusa) (1996), the artist asked his wife, the photographer Elfie Semotan, to take pictures of him in the poses of Théodore Géricault's shipwreck victims. Translated to paint, Kippenberger used these nineteenth century scenes of human struggle as allegories, using the histrionic pathos of the original to create a witty, sardonic comment on his own life as it became increasingly subsumed by his vices. As Eva Meyer-Hermann so poignantly concluded, 'the fulcrum of his artistic ideas was his own persona. It was always the person Martin Kippenberger that faced up to everyday reality. He described himself as 'one of you' and declared that 'every artist is also a human being', turning Beuys's famous dictum the other way. His own individuality, with all its vulnerability and particular life circumstances served as a source of inspiration for his art' (E. Meyer-Hermann, 'Yes, I am also a woman. Tragedies of the Flesh', Kippenberger Meets Picasso, exh. cat., Museo Picasso, Mlaga 2011, p. 63).
Untitled (from the series Hand-Painted Pictures)
Oil on canvas
PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT PRIVATE EUROPEAN COLLECTION
Martin Kippenberger , 1990s, Paintings, Germany, Contemporary
Cologne, Galerie Max Hetzler, Hand-Painted Pictures, 1992 (illustrated in colour, p. 34).
Paris, Musée national d'art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Candidature à une retrospective, 1993.
St. Louis, Forum for Contemporary Art, Pictures of an Exhibition, 1993 (illustrated in colour, p. 33).
New York, Metro Pictures, Pictures of an Exhibition - Part 2, 1993 (illustrated in colour, p. 33).
Basel, Kunsthalle Basel, Martin Kippenberger, 1998 no. 41 (illustrated in colour, p. 107).
Hamburg, Deichtorhallen Hamburg, Martin Kippenberger - Selbstbildnisse, The Happy End of Franz Kafka's "Amerika", Sozialkistentransport, Laternen etc., 1999 no. 41 (illustrated in colour, p. 107).
Karlsruhe, ZKM/Museum für Neue Kunst, Martin Kippenberger - Das 2. Sein, 2003, (illustrated in colour, p. 137).
London, Tate Modern, Martin Kippenberger, 2006, no. 81 (illustrated in colour, p. 147). This exhibition later travelled to Dusseldorf, K21 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen.
Los Angeles, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Martin Kippenberger: The Problem of Perspective, 2009 (illustrated in colour, p. 251). This exhibition later travelled to New York, Museum of Modern Art.
POST-WAR & CONTEMPORARY ART
71 x 59in. (180.4 x 149.8cm.)
A. Taschen and B. Riemschneider (eds.), Kippenberger, Cologne 2003, no. 121 (illustrated in colour, p. 164).
Galerie Max Hetzler, Cologne.
Metro Pictures, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner circa 1997.
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.