PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT PRIVATE COLLECTION

Martin Kippenberger
DIE MUTTER VON JOSEPH BEUYS
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3,000,0004,000,000
LOT SOLD. 3,983,750 GBP (Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium)
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PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT PRIVATE COLLECTION

Martin Kippenberger
DIE MUTTER VON JOSEPH BEUYS
Estimate
Irrevocable Bids
Lots with this symbol indicate that a party has provided Sotheby’s with an irrevocable bid on the lot that will be executed during the sale at a value that ensures that the lot will sell. The irrevocable bidder, who may bid in excess of the irrevocable bid, will be compensated based on the final hammer price in the event he or she is not the successful bidder or may receive a fixed fee in the event he or she is the successful bidder. If the irrevocable bidder is the successful bidder, the fixed fee (if applicable) for providing the irrevocable bid may be netted against the irrevocable bidder’s obligation to pay the full purchase price for the lot and the purchase price reported for the lot shall be net of such fixed fee. If the irrevocable bid is not secured until after the printing of the auction catalogue, a pre-lot announcement will be made indicating that there is an irrevocable bid on the lot. If the irrevocable bidder is advising anyone with respect to the lot, Sotheby’s requires the irrevocable bidder to disclose his or her financial interest in the lot. If an agent is advising you or bidding on your behalf with respect to a lot identified as being subject to an irrevocable bid, you should request that the agent disclose whether or not he or she has a financial interest in the lot.
UK: Greenford Park
Lots marked W will be sent to Greenford Park Fine Art Storage Facility immediately after the auction.
Artist's Resale Right
Purchase of lots marked with this symbol will be subject to the payment of the artist's resale right.
Guaranteed Property
Guaranteed Property. The seller of lots with this symbol has been guaranteed a minimum price from one auction or a series of auctions. If every lot in a catalogue is guaranteed, the Conditions of Sale will so state and this symbol will not be used for each lot.
3,000,0004,000,000
LOT SOLD. 3,983,750 GBP (Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium)
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

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London

Martin Kippenberger
1953 - 1997
DIE MUTTER VON JOSEPH BEUYS
signed with the artist's monogram and dated 84
oil on canvas, in 4 parts
overall: 240 by 200 cm. 94 1/2 by 78 3/4 in.
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Provenance

Galerie Max Hetzler, Cologne

Acquired from the above by the present owner

Exhibited

Cologne, Galerie Max Hetzler, Werner Büttner, Günther Förg, Georg Herold, Hubert Kiecol, Martin Kippenberger, Albert Oehlen, Gilbert & George, June - July 1984

Vienna, Galerie Peter Pakesch, Kippenberger: Sind die Discos so doof wie ich glaube, oder bin ich der Doofe, November 1984

Darmstadt, Hessisches Landesmuseum, Martin Kippenberger: Miete Strom Gas, June - August 1986, p. 60, illustrated (installation view)

Aachen, Ludwig Forum für Internationale Kunst Sammlung Schürmann, Dirty Data, June - August 1992, n.p., illustrated

Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Martin Kippenberger, October 2004 - January 2005, p. 105, illustrated in colour 

Frankfurt, Städel Museum, Die 80er: Figurative Malerei in der BRD, July - October 2015, pp. 93 and 207, illustrated in colour 

Literature

Angelika Muthesius, Ed., Martin Kippenberger: Ten Years After, Cologne 1991, p. 75, no. 50, illustrated in colour 

Angelika Taschen and Burkhard Riemschneider, Eds., Kippenberger, Cologne 1997 and 2003, p. 95, no. 50, illustrated in colour

Roberta Smith, 'Martin Kippenberger, 43, Artist of Irreverence and Mixed Styles', The New York Times, 11 March 1997, p. 24, illustrated

Uwe Koch, Ed., Annotated Catalogue Raisonné of the Books by Martin Kippenberger, 1977-1997, Cologne 2002, p. 231, illustrated (inside Kippenberger, Cologne 1997)

Catalogue Note

Die Mutter von Joseph Beuys is one of two major paintings by Martin Kippenberger that seditiously depicts the mother of the German high-priest of conceptual art, Joseph Beuys. The sister painting is held in the permanent collection of the renowned artist, collector and professor, Wilhelm Schürmann, and should be viewed as a transition point between this artist’s two most important series: the Lieber Maler, male mir works of 1981, and the Picasso Paintings of 1988. Across the entirety of its composition, Kippenberger is at pains to reroute the contemporaneous course of the avant-garde and to revisit the critical appreciation of art history. He undermines his artistic peers and predecessors with teasing wit and condescension, and presents himself at the heart of the avant-garde discourse in Germany. This work was perhaps best described by Albert Oehlen: “And then Martin found the photo of Joseph Beuys’ mother. That is really something, that look! – an incredible picture” (Albert Oehlen cited in: Exh. Cat., Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Martin Kippenberger, 2004, p. 104).

From a conceptual perspective, the present work should be viewed as the direct progeny of the celebrated Lieber Maler, male mir (Dear Painter, paint for me) series. For these works, executed in the early 1980s in the years directly preceding the present work, Kippenberger hired Mr Werner, a Berlin sign painter, to make paintings based on images that he supplied. It was a subversive gesture specifically designed as a riposte to the rising stars of the German art world at the time, such as Helmut Middendorf and Reiner Fetting, whose burgeoning careers were buoyed up by critical appreciation for their specific sense of gesture and idiosyncratic styles of painterly execution. In employing a third party to complete his works, which appear nonetheless impressive and grandiose, Kippenberger satirised and undermined the artistic contributions of his painterly peers to the contemporaneous avant-garde. Consonant with the entirety of his oeuvre, Kippenberger was zealous in demonstrating his conceptual prowess over his own skill as a painter of executive skill.

In Die Mutter von Joseph Beuys, Kippenberger takes a directly comparable approach. Where in earlier series he had aimed his subversive wit at mere contemporaries, in the present work he takes on the godfather of German conceptualism: Joseph Beuys. By 1984, Beuys had achieved success of mythic proportion and exerted almost complete hegemony over the German art world. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Beuys had continually innovated and pushed the boundaries of conceptualism and performance art; he had collaborated extensively with Andy Warhol; he had exhibited multiple times at documenta and the Venice Biennale; and he had enjoyed major retrospectives at some of the most prestigious museums and institutions in the world. Kippenberger thus deliberately mocked Beuys’ legacy, and sardonically looked to interrupt the critical dominance the elder artist had cast across Europe and beyond. Indeed, in order to counteract Beuys’ famous idealism, expressed through his maxim “everyone is an artist”, Kippenberger coined his own ironic version of the phrase, intended to shatter the cloud of mythic reverence and abstruse intellectualism that surrounded successful artists of his day: “every artist is a human being”. The present work represents that moment whereupon Kippenberger came closest to a personal attack on the elder statesmen of the zeitgeist. In presenting the viewer with a portrait of Beuys’ mother, Kippenberger not only strikes an intimate personal chord, but also portrays him as an artist already consigned to the history books. We automatically think of Beuys in the same ranks as those artists who had already engaged with this famous trope of ‘mother’ as subject: James Whistler, Vincent van Gogh, even Lucian Freud. We are reminded of immensely important and art historically revered masters who, though canonical, were entirely devoid of contemporary relevance to the conceptual verve of 1980s Germany. With this work, Kippenberger launches a volley upon Beuys – an attack of mock condescension. He frames him as an obsolete Old Master who has had his day at the forefront of the avant-garde and is now ready to be put out to pasture. Through this seditious move, Kippenberger installs himself in Beuys’ place, and asserts his role at the centre of the conceptual discourse.

In this light, Die Mutter von Joseph Beuys should also be understood as a self-portrait. Possessing curved cheekbones, a well-defined jaw, and long thin nose, the subject of this work is demonstrably Kippenberger himself. In the source image upon which the present work is based – an image that had incidentally been widely circulated in Beuys monographs – the face of Beuys’ mother was all but obscured, hidden underneath a rain-hat in a photograph taken from some distance. By melding his own face with her indistinctly documented features, Kippenberger not only compounds the mood of sardonic wit that suffuses the entirety of his output, but also makes a further attempt to include his own identity at the heart of the art historical debate. In this way, the present work can be seen as a direct precursor to the celebrated ‘Picasso Paintings’: a group of works executed in 1988 in which Kippenberger repeatedly painted himself in the guise of Picasso. In a similar mode to the present work, Kippenberger mocks the celebrated modern art genius by burlesquing famous images of Picasso and inserting himself in the senior artist’s place.

Throughout his career, Martin Kippenberger wanted to expose and express human fallibility and artistic imperfection. As much as in the Liebe Maler, male mir series and the Picasso Paintings of 1988, the present work satirises and unpicks art historical reverence. In pastiching Joseph Beuys with such vicious and precise accuracy, he was not so much trying to elevate his own artistry up to Beuys’ level, or even to that of Fetting or Middendorf, as trying to drag them down to his own – to what he viewed as the level of the common man. In this regard, the present work is an ultimate exemplar by the bad boy of German contemporary art. Endlessly rewarding in interpretation, entirely complete in conceptual relevance, and completed across a massive scale this painting should be considered as work of extraordinary quality and exceptional wit.

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

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London