oil on canvas
Petersen Gallery, Hamburg
Reinald Nohal & Michel Würthle, Berlin
Zazie de Paris, Berlin
Reinald Nohal, Berlin
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner
Dear Painter, Paint Me is one of Martin Kippenberger’s most important and iconic works. Executed during the artist’s stay in Florence in 1976-77, this small canvas nurtured the foundations of Kippenberger’s career and provided the inspirational basis for his most celebrated mature series, Lieber Maler, Male Mir (‘Dear Painter, Paint For Me’) of 1979.
Kippenberger’s trip to Florence in 1976 was made with the express intention of becoming an actor. However with no work in sight, after a few months he begun to paint images that he saw as giving, “a good picture of Florence.” Working both from life and from an assortment of postcards, photographs, newspaper cuttings, Kippenberger selected images relating to his daily existence and completed almost a hundred canvases in under three months. Choosing his subjects and cropping them in deliberately ambiguous ways, these pictures provide an identikit account of his Florentine daily life and an ironic criticism of conventional aesthetic and cultural values. When he returned back to Hamburg in 1977, Kippenberger showed the paintings at what was his first exhibition, Uno di Voi, un Tedesco in Firenze at the Petersen Gallery. Translated as 'One of You, a German in Florence', the title and the motley mix of everyday subjects exhibited provided a kind of autobiographical visual diary – a forerunner to his later 'Hotel Drawings'. Fusing the boldness Pop art with socialist and Italian Neo-Realism through an atmospheric drama of shadow plays, the series established the stylistic and thematic diversity of Kippenberger’s subsequent oeuvre.
Dear Painter, Paint Me is one of the most important paintings of Kippenberger’s career, and was acquired shortly after the Petersen exhibition along with several other Florentine paintings by the owners of Berlin’s Paris Bar, Reinald Nohal & Michel Würthle. Nohal and Wurthle were arguably the two most important figures in Kippenberger’s life. Not only did their bar provide the focus and sustenance for his daily existence in Berlin, they supported and backed Kippenberger’s most ambitious, conceptual project, the Metro-Net which earned him entry into Documenta in Kassel.
As Nohal’s favourite work from the Florentine group from the beginning, Dear Painter, Paint Me occupied the pride of place in their restaurant until it was given as a present to Zazie de Paris, a French transvestite and regular at the bar. Nohal however was devastated, and to heal the wound, Kippenberger painted him a replacement as part of his series inspired by the title of the present work, ‘Lieber Maler, Male Mir’. Not long after though, Nahal was able to buy the painting back off Zazie.
Kippenberger pointed to the Conceptual basis of these early Florentine paintings, which when stacked up were intended to be the same height as the artist himself, (1.89m.). While in retrospect the series may be viewed as an ironic comment on Conceptual art, more important is the strong reflection they provide of Kippenberger’s interest in the paintings of Gerhard Richter. Richter’s influence is evident here in the use of photographs as a basis for the painted image, the black and white palette and the tendency to work in series. However, unlike Richter who often immortalised recognisable figures from the media such as his 48 Portraits bedeutender Manner, Kippenberger’s images were selected for their striking ordinariness. Instead of the virtuoso sfumato characteristic of Richter’s work, Kippenberger here eschews regularity and cohesion in his adoption of expressive brushwork and thickly applied paint, which presages the sculptural depth of the artist's later work.
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