40
40
Sigmar Polke
LOESUNGEN I - IV [SOLUTIONS I - IV]
Estimate
3,000,0004,000,000
LOT SOLD. 3,525,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT
40
Sigmar Polke
LOESUNGEN I - IV [SOLUTIONS I - IV]
Estimate
3,000,0004,000,000
LOT SOLD. 3,525,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

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New York

Sigmar Polke
1941 - 2010
LOESUNGEN I - IV [SOLUTIONS I - IV]
(i) and (iv) signed and dated 69 on the reverse
lacquer on canvas, in four parts
each: 59 x 49 1/4 in. 150 x 125 cm.
Executed in 1969.
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Provenance

The Artist
Galerie Michael Werner, Cologne
The Herbig Collection, Munich (acquired by 1976)
Christie's, New York, June 3, 1998, Lot 17 (sale of the above)
Acquired by the present owner from the above

Exhibited

Cologne, Galerie Rudolf Zwirner, June 1969
Munich, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Bilder Objekte Filme Konzepte, April - May 1973, cat. no. 205, pp. 139 and 142
Tübingen, Kunsthalle; Düsseldorf, Kunsthalle; Eindhoven, Stedelijk van Abbe-Museum, Sigmar Polke: Bilder Tücher Objekte Werkauswahl 1962-1971, February - July 1976, cat. nos. 66 - 69, p. 112, illustrated (incorrectly dated 1967)
Zurich, Kunsthaus Zurich, Sigmar Polke, April - May 1984, cat. no. 45 (incorrectly dated 1967)
Bonn, Kunst-und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland; Berlin, Nationalgalerie im Hamburger Bahnhof Museum für Gegenwart, Sigmar Polke: The Three Lies of Painting, June 1997 - February 1998, p. 167, illustrated (incorrectly dated 1967)

Catalogue Note

Sigmar Polke produced work of astonishing diversity and versatility throughout his career, forging a painterly language that was utterly unique in its embrace of innovative artistic forms and ideas. Polke’s works teasingly defy categorization, eluding association with conventional art historical movements in favor of an extraordinarily eclectic stylistic language. The artist transcends the boundaries of traditional painting, moving into fascinatingly unpredictable dominions of creative experimentation, whilst imbuing his works with a sense of subtle satire and humor. Polke challenges us to unravel the riddles he presents on canvas, yet does so in a way that ultimately leaves interpretation a matter of personal opinion. Peter Schjeldahl comments on the enigmatic nature of Polke’s oeuvre: “To learn more and more about him, it has sometimes seemed to me, is to know less and less. His art is like Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland rabbit hole, entrance to a realm of spiralling perplexities…” (Peter Schjeldahl, ‘The Daemon and Sigmar Polke’ in Exh. Cat., San Francisco, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Sigmar Polke, 1990-1991, p. 17) This astounding range of multiple meanings ensures that Polke’s painting remains one of the most endlessly fascinating bodies of work produced by any artist active during the last few decades.

Loesungen I-IV is one of the most significant series of works painted by Polke towards the beginning of his career, brilliantly exhibiting the distinctive wit for which the artist was renowned. At first glance, the elegiac beauty of mathematical formulae appears to be celebrated through the orderly lines of numbers and symbols, yet closer inspection reveals that numeracy is in fact being subverted in favor of amusingly juvenile arithmetical mistakes. Loesungen I-IV thus deconstructs the concept of an underlying order and harmony inherent within the universe, defying rational thought and investigation. The four canvases complement one another magnificently, each focusing on a different form of sum and reasoning. Confronted by these serried ranks of numbers, the viewer is forced to analyze and evaluate the ‘sums’ in front of them, yet no logical pattern emerges, willfully contradicting the promise of the title: ‘Solutions’ appears to suggest a reassuringly concrete result. John Caldwell argues that within the Loesungen series “Polke wickedly satirised the pretensions of conceptual art.” (John Caldwell, ‘Sigmar Polke,’ in Ibid., p. 10) Conceptual Art had gained increasingly in importance since the mid-1960s, with artists such as Joseph Kosuth and Sol LeWitt producing work in which ideas and intellectual possibilities took precedence over visual painterly stimulation.

Certainly Polke appears to be subtly mocking the tenets of the movement in Loesungen I-IV, creating a series in which “different sets of rules govern art and life… Beneath the penetrating humor, Polke appeared to argue that painting was not a self-sufficient entity, but rather a discipline that needed illumination through other methods of enquiry.” (Sean Rainbird, ‘Seams and Appearances: learning to paint with Sigmar Polke,’ in Exh. Cat., Liverpool, Tate Gallery, Sigmar Polke, Join the Dots, 1995, p. 15) Loesungen I-IV can thus be regarded as an extremely important group, signifying Polke’s investigation into the nature and potential of painting itself.

The 1960s were of immense import for the development of Polke’s artistic language, as the young painter strove to give expression to his ground-breaking creative ideals during a time of social and artistic ferment within Germany. Born in Silesia, East Germany Polke crossed over to the West in 1953, a move which later enabled him to study at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf alongside fellow students Gerhard Richter and Konrad Lueg. The three artists founded their own movement, somewhat satirically entitled ‘Capitalist Realism,’ a pointed reaction against the state-sponsored art of the GDR, and showed together in 1963 in an exhibition entitled Life with Pop – A Demonstration for Capitalist Realism. Polke was also greatly inspired by the teachers at the Kunstakademie, in particular by the presence of the legendary Joseph Beuys, whose almost messianic belief that art could be instrumental in social and political change presumably exerted a lasting influence on Polke. Margit Rowell has argued that the Kunstakadamie “would produce a generation of artists of unequalled distinction. The artists at the academy were extremely well informed about developments on the international scene. They were also incredibly free to transgress academic precedents.” (Margit Rowell, ‘Sigmar Polke, Stratagems of Subversion,’ in Exh. Cat., New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Sigmar Polke: Works on Paper 1963-1974, 1999, p. 9) Polke’s art flourished in an environment conducive to experimentation and creative investigation, enabling him to paint in a manner that was wholly revolutionary in its disavowal of conventional styles and techniques: Loesungen I-IV emerged from this period of pioneering creative exploration. In its celebration of form and witty rejection of traditional painting, Loesungen I-IV can be considered as one of the most important series of Polke’s entire oeuvre, brilliantly moving beyond the previously accepted confines of painterly technique to create an entirely new and endlessly astonishing artistic lexicon.

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

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New York