Lot 8
  • 8

Martin Kippenberger

6,000,000 - 8,000,000 USD
6,437,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Martin Kippenberger
  • Untitled
  • acrylic on canvas


Michel Werthle, Berlin (acquired from the artist in 1982)
Galerie Wewerka, Berlin
Acquired by the present owner from the above circa 1990


Basel, Kunsthalle Basel; Hamburg, Deichtorhallen, Martin Kippenberger, September 1998 - April 1999, cat. no. 4, illustrated in color
Madrid, Palacio de Velázquez, Parque del Retiro, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Martin Kippenberger, October 2004 - January 2005, pp. 64-65, illustrated in color (as Braver Junge, immer brav [Good boy, always good]), and illustrated in color as a frontispiece (detail)
New York, Gagosian Gallery, Martin Kippenberger, "Lieber Maler, male mir/Dear Painter, paint for me," March - April 2005, p. 25, illustrated in color
Los Angeles, Museum of Contemporary Art; New York, Museum of Modern Art, Martin Kippenberger: The Problem Perspective, September 2008 - May 2009, pp. 66-67, illustrated in color
Berlin, Hamburger Bahnhof, Martin Kippenberger: Sehr Gut/Very Good, February - August 2013 


Exh. Cat., Geneva, Halle Sud Centre d'expositions de la Ville de Genève, Martin Kippenberger: En cas de réclamation les sentiments vous seront remboursés1989, p. 16, illustrated (on the announcement card for the exhibition Le succès par la puberté, Galerie Petersen, Berlin, 1981)
Exh. Cat., Vienna, Galerie Bleich-Rossi, Martin Kippenberger, Schwarz Brot Gold, 1990, illustrated in installation
Rainer Speck, Martin Kippenberger: Bei Nichtgefallen Gefühle zurück, Die gesamten Karten 1989-1997, Cologne, 2000, cat. no. 111, illustrated (on the brochure for the exhibition Schwarz Brot Gold, Galerie Bleich-Rossi, Vienna, 1990)
Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, Martin Kippenberger, Books 1977-1997, Cologne, 2002, pp. 209 and 234, illustrated (in installation at the exhibition Schwarz Brot Gold, Galerie Bleich-Rossi, Vienna, 1990) 
Exh. Cat., Vienna, Galerie Bleich-Rossi, Martin Kippenberger - 25 Jahre Galerie Bleich-Rossi, 2007, p. 62, illustrated in color (on the invitation booklet for the exhibition Schwarz Brot Gold, 1990)

Catalogue Note

Simply awe-inspiring in scale, execution and the scope of its conceptual project, Martin Kippenberger’s Untitled of 1981 is truly a work of historic importance. Proposing major developments of conceptual and appropriation practices that would become hugely influential to the subsequent course of art history, this painting comprises a major cultural, social and political commentary. Having been acquired from the artist by Michel Werthle, the owner of Kippenberger's favorite Berlin haunt, the Paris Bar, the painting hung in that establishment for a number  of years in the 1980s. It represents the pinnacle of Kippenberger’s seminal early series of paintings collectively entitled Lieber Maler, Male Mir (Dear Painter, Paint for Me); an iconic and highly-celebrated corpus within the artist’s oeuvre. Wittily contradicting accepted notions of painterly veracity, Kippenberger employed a painter of film-posters, known as Werner, to execute this work based on the artist’s own ideas and specifications. Utilizing photographs or advertising imagery as source material for the paintings – in the manner of Gerhard Richter or Sigmar Polke - Kippenberger’s decision to entrust the process of painting itself to another person leads to multi-faceted layers of symbolism and commentary, both intellectual and artistic. Reflecting on the theory behind such incisive delegation, Kippenberger declared that: “I am not an easel-kisser… I actually have nothing to do with painted pictures. That’s why one of my solutions for this problem has been to let others paint for me, but only in the way I need it, the way I see it.” (the artist cited in Roberto Ohrt, Kippenberger, Cologne, 2003, p. 54) Creating the fictitious alter-ego of ‘Werner Kippenberger’, a symbolic amalgamation of craft and philosophy in its combination of both the names involved in the creation of the series, Kippenberger provided a brilliantly perceptive riposte to the perceived stylistic excesses of some forms of painting within Germany during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Anke Kempkes argues that Kippenberger sought to re-invent painterly practice within the series: “With the two by three metres which these pictures measure, Kippenberger reacted to the vast large scale painting practiced by his friends and colleagues at the time… In order to rescue painting on his own terms, he had to stop practicing it authentically for a while. From today’s perspective Kippenberger’s strategy can be seen as an early form of Appropriation Art.” (Anke Kempkes in Exh. Cat., Vienna, Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig (and travelling), After Kippenberger, 2003, p. 37)

Another intriguing layer of complexity is introduced into the composition of Untitled by the presence of Kippenberger himself in the image, placing the work firmly within the context of the artist’s highly significant career-long investigation into the possibilities of self-portraiture. The genre enabled Kippenberger knowingly to celebrate and deride the narcissistic self-promotion that functions as the necessary evil of an artist-celebrity persona, and proved a crucial facet to the development of his varied and wide-ranging artistic practice. There is also an inherent, exquisite irony in the presentation of Untitled as a self-portrait once the conditions surrounding the creation of the Lieber Maler, Male Mir are taken into account. Kippenberger stands nonchalantly in front of a seemingly abandoned Berlin souvenir stand, between the East German DDR emblems and presumably in the shadow of the Berlin Wall, aping the style and pose of a cowboy in his Stetson hat and fur-adorned coat.  The choice of attire and the word ‘Souvenirs,’ prominently displayed above Kippenberger’s head, indicates a commentary on the pervasiveness of American consumerism, obliquely connecting Untitled with the earlier work of Pop Artists such as Andy Warhol and Claes Oldenburg, as well as to Richard Prince’s renowned Cowboy series, which arose from Marlboro Man advertisements in the early 1980s.

The two posters included within the background, commemorating thirty years since East Germany came into existence, imbue Untitled with loaded political and historical connotations. Alison Gingeras argues: “The two posters… not only made reference to the tourist industry’s exploitation of Eastern bloc fascination in 1980s Berlin; it also alludes to Kippenberger’s calculated use of realism as an ideologically charged genre with historical ties to Soviet bloc countries. Extrapolating from Barbara Straka’s catalogue essay entitled 'Realismusstudio 14: Werner Kippenberger’… it is plausible to conclude that Kippenberger’s use of realism was an antagonistic political gesture. Not only did it look dated, this style of representation, even when used ironically, was politically on the wrong side of the wall.” (Alison Gingeras in Exh. Cat., New York, Gagosian Gallery, Martin Kippenberger, Lieber Maler, male mir, 2005, p. 13) This reference to the Berlin Wall is of crucial importance: born in Dortmund in 1953 and living in Berlin from 1978, Kippenberger lived through all the tense drama of the complex political situation within Germany during this entire period. Between 1961 and 1989 the Wall ruthlessly divided Communist East Berlin from its liberated Western counterpart, a state of affairs that exerted huge influence on social and cultural life within the country. Untitled can thus be read in part as a work of political and social commentary as well as a subtly seditious indictment of cultural norms. By inverting the painter’s role, yet still maintaining his artistic integrity, Kippenberger succeeds in transcending conventional artistic ideals, creating a work in which high and low culture combine in a manner that magnificently encapsulates the artist’s legendary talent for cultural subversion.

One of the most ground-breaking and consistently innovative artists of the late Twentieth Century, Martin Kippenberger produced work of astonishing variety throughout his career, utilizing the potential of an incredibly diverse range of media including sculpture, installation, photography and painting to forge an utterly unique creative language. Resisting any attempts at conventional definition and linearity, Kippenberger’s body of work challenges traditional art historical notions and concepts, providing an often mocking commentary on accepted cultural and social mores whilst subverting commonly accepted artistic expectations. Combining wry humor with a frequently satirical viewpoint and an astonishing imaginative flair, Kippenberger’s work encourages us to view the seemingly quotidian in a novel light. His influence on younger artists led Jeremy Strick to describe Kippenberger as “One of the most significant and essential artists of his generation… Kippenberger’s reputation extends far beyond the German context of his emergence in the late 1970s.” (Jeremy Strick, Director’s Forward in Exh. Cat., Los Angeles, Museum of Contemporary Art (and travelling), Martin Kippenberger: The Problem Perspective, 2008, p. 12)