Lot 21
  • 21

Martin Kippenberger

1,200,000 - 1,800,000 GBP
1,818,500 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Martin Kippenberger
  • Eifrau, die man nicht schubladieren kann (Egg Woman Who Defies Categorisation)
  • signed with the artist's initials and dated 96
  • oil on canvas


A gift from the artist to the present owner


Mönchengladbach, Städtisches Museum Abteiberg, Der Eiermann und SeineAusleger, 1997

Dortmund, Dortmunder Kunstverein E.V., Martin Kippenberger: Nicht oft Gesehen, 2004-05, p. 27, illustrated in colour

New York, Skarstedt Gallery, Martin Kippenberger: Eggman II, 2011, p. 21, illustrated in colour

Catalogue Note

Executed in the penultimate year of Martin Kippenberger’s tragically brief life, Eifrau, die man nicht schubladieren kann epitomises all the brilliant artistic invention, knowing self-reference and confrontational practice that lay at the heart of this artist’s prolific output as well as his steadfast refusal to conform to convention. Literally translating to English as Egg Woman, That You Cannot Put in a Draw, this painting relates to a series of Eierbilder or Egg Pictures that Kippenberger created in 1996 and that were represented by the exhibition Der Eiermann und seine Ausleger (The Egg Man and his Outriggers) held at the Städtisches Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach from February to April 1997. When asked by Daniel Baumann in 1997 how he had come up with the idea of painting the cycle of Eierbilder, Kippenberger replied: ‘‘In painting you have to be on the lookout: what windfall is still left for you to paint. Justice hasn't been done to the egg, justice hasn’t been done to the fried egg, Warhol's already had the banana. So you take a form, it's always about sharp edges, a square, this and this format, the golden section. An egg is white and flat, how can that turn into a coloured picture? If you turn it around this way and that, you’ll come up with something. Maybe even social politics, or jokes; whatever the case it’s a beautiful form’’ (Martin Kippenberger quoted in: Exhibition Catalogue, London, Tate, Martin Kippenberger, 2006, p. 63). The subject of this work is simultaneously both densely metaphorical and lyrically, almost surreally, elusive. We are confronted with the form of a figure that can be interpreted either as a white egg body with human limbs, or the limbs of a human body apparently screened or hiding behind the oval shape, with the left hand seeming to support the egg cut out. An oval – a derivative of the Latin ovum meaning egg - with only one axis of symmetry, the egg stands as the universal visual referent for birth and creation, and has a longstanding history as a potent symbol in the iconographical lexicon of art history. For millennia it has acted as a sign of fertility and hope, representing the cycle of regeneration and new life. From the graphic symbol of femininity in Egyptian hieroglyphs to its depiction by artists ranging from Piero della Francesca, Diego Velázquez, Carl Fabergé, and René Magritte, the imagery of the ovum has long incited variously esoteric semiotic interpretations.

While the title and style of the strapped shoes here point to the figure being a woman, close analogies with Kippenberger’s self-depiction elsewhere also invoke the character of a self-portrait; indeed, in other works, there is a precedent for Kippenberger appearing in drag. The underwear around these bare legs is highly reminiscent of the trousers around the ankles of the figure in the left-hand panel of his celebrated painting Nieder mit der Inflation (Down With Inflation) of 1984, an image that was sourced in a photograph of the artist. Furthermore, the egg shape itself is readily evocative of the balloon shapes in his most famous series of self-portraits of 1988 where Kippenberger consciously imitated his great hero Picasso by depicting himself in voluminous white underpants. Indeed, that the artist’s self-portraiture lies so squarely at the heart of so much of his corpus certainly affords one interpretation of the Egg Woman standing as allegorical proxy for Martin Kippenberger.

Kippenberger was an artist born to be a painter at a time of non-painting, when installation and Duchampian concepts held sway in the 1960s and 70s. Joseph Beuys was the self-appointed leader of this generation that had become the establishment by the time Kippenberger and his generation began their artistic careers. Kippenberger and fellow painters such as Albert Oehlen stood in reaction to their ‘‘elders’’ and their advocacy of painting as the noblest art was a form of patricide. Kippenberger championed an earlier era with the artist as a mythic hero and painting at the summit of culture. Of course, as with so much of the artist’s oeuvre, overly deterministic subjective readings of the figurative content of his paintings often compete with the most important themes. However, the title and depiction of a draw inside an egg here attract irresistible narrative interpretation realting to the ‘Indefinable Nature’’ of the artist and his art, and Kippenberger’s total rejection of compartmentalisation in virtually everything he did and created. Eifrau, die man nicht chubladieren kann summates this phenomenal aptitude and provides apt visual parallel to a statement of Peter Pakesch and Zdenek Felix made for a retrospective held one year after the artist’s untimely death: ‘‘It was always his commitment to modern art and his antipathy to staleness in cultural activity that made him productive and critical…Martin Kippenberger’s mission was to take on the world’’ (Peter Pakesch and Zdenek Felix in: Exhibition Catalogue, Basel, Kunsthalle, Martin Kippenberger, 1998, p. 4).