Lot 8
  • 8

Martin Kippenberger

3,000,000 - 4,000,000 USD
5,541,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Martin Kippenberger
  • Untitled
  • acrylic on canvas


Estate of the Artist
Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne
Acquired by the present owner from the above in 2003


Berlin, Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst, Werner Kippenberger: Lieber Maler, male mir, March - April 1981, n.p., illustrated
Geneva, Musée d'Art Moderne et Contemporain; Turin, Castello di Rivoli, Museo d'arte contemporanea, Martin Kippenberger, Respektive 1997-1976, February - September 1997 and February - April 1998
Basel, Kunsthalle Basel; Hamburg, Deichtorhallen, Martin Kippenberger, September 1998 - April 1999, cat. no. 3, illustrated in color
New York, Gagosian Gallery, Martin Kippenberger: Lieber Maler, Male Mir, March - April 2005, pp. 4 and 6, illustrated (in installation at Castello di Rivoli, Turin, 1998) and p. 39, illustrated in color
London, Tate Modern; Düsseldorf, K21 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Martin Kippenberger, February - September 2006, cat. no. 2, p. 67, illustrated in color
London, Hayward Gallery; Turin, Castello di Rivoli, Museo d'arte contemporanea, The Painting of Modern Life, October 2007 - May 2008, cat. no. 68, illustrated in color
Los Angeles, The Museum of Contemporary Art; New York, Museum of Modern Art, Martin Kippenberger: The Problem Perspective, September 2008 - May 2009, p. 63, illustrated in color and p. 189, illustrated in color (with the artist, in installation at the Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst, Berlin, 1981)


Angelika Muthesius, ed., Martin Kippenberger: Ten Years After, Cologne, 1991, fig. 7, p. 34, illustrated in color
Angelika Taschen and Burkhard Riemschneider, eds., Kippenberger, Cologne, 1997 (reprinted in 2003), fig. 7, p. 54, illustrated in color

Catalogue Note

“My father said that if I wanted to be an artist, I'd have to find my own style. That was the hardest thing of all for me. Finding my own style, I got very stuck until I suddenly realised that having no style is also a style, so that's what I did. That set me free. Don't worry about style but about what you want to say.”  - Martin Kippenberger quoted in “Parachever Picasso/Completing Picasso: Interview between Martin Kippenberger and Daniel Baumann,” Exh. Cat., London, Tate Gallery, Martin Kippenberger, 2006, p. 59

The landmark series Lieber Maler, Male Mir (Dear Painter, Paint for Me), denotes a transformative moment in Martin Kippenberger’s career, an artistic coup d'état that established many of the concepts and preoccupations that would come to define the artist’s mercurial oeuvre. Famously part of this groundbreaking body of work, Untitled is one of only twelve paintings created for Kippenberger’s first ever museum exhibition which took place in Berlin’s Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst (New Society for Fine Arts) in 1981. Wittily contradicting accepted notions of painterly veracity, Kippenberger employed a painter of film-posters, known as Werner, to execute these works based on the artist’s concepts and specifications. Traditionally considered the essential creative act, the practice of painting and its attendant concept of the romantic artist as technical virtuoso are resolutely foiled and debunked by Kippenberger. Reflecting on the theory behind such incisive delegation, the artist 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) Resisting any attempts at conventional definition and linearity, Kippenberger’s work successfully challenges traditional art historical archetypes, providing a mocking commentary on accepted cultural and social paradigms whilst subverting conventional 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, which might have led Jeremy Strick to describe Kippenberger as “one of the most significant and essential artists of his generation.”  (Jeremy Strick, "Director’s Forward" in Exh. Cat., Los Angeles, Museum of Contemporary Art (and travelling), Martin Kippenberger: The Problem Perspective, 2008, p. 12)

Unquestionably groundbreaking, Kippenberger’s Lieber Maler, Male Mir, imparted a sophisticated reexamination of the concept of painting itself. By creating the fictitious alter-ego of ‘Werner Kippenberger’, a symbolic collusion of craft and philosophy in combining both names involved in the creation of the series, Kippenberger provided a brilliantly perceptive riposte to the perceived stylistic excesses of painting in Germany during the late 1970s and early 1980s; indeed, the series was immediately read as an attack on the traditionalist ideals still operating in contemporary German art. His gesture of handing over production responded to the rising stars of the ‘Neue Wilde’, such as Helmut Middendorf and Reiner Fetting, who based their reputation on a signature style of painterly expressionism in monumental works on canvas. Fittingly, Kippenberger once remarked, “I am a traveling salesman. I deal in ideas. I do much more for the people than just paint them pictures.” (the artist cited in Exh. Cat., London, Hayward Gallery (and travelling), The Painting of Modern Life: 1960s to Now, 2007, p. 105) Reacting to this contemporaneous artistic milieu, Kippenberger sought to simultaneously scrutinize the conceptual core of painting and the creative role and identity of the painter himself. As outlined by Anke Kempes, “With the two by three meters 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.” (Anke Kempes in Exh. Cat., Vienna, Museum Moderner Kunst. Stiftung Ludwig (and travelling), After Kippenberger, 2003, p. 37)

The towering presence of the artist in this painting introduces an intriguing layer of complexity that firmly locates the work in the context of Kippenberger’s most significant and enduring investigation: self-portraiture. Throughout his career, Kippenberger has celebrated and derided the narcissistic self-promotion that functions as the necessary fiction in every successful artist’s persona. This ambivalence is in evidence here: by turning his back on the viewer Kippenberger thwarts our expectations. By simultaneously rebuking the painterly act and the viewer’s gaze, this painting incites a reevaluation of the terms of authentic self-presentation and identity. Portrayed as though captured candidly in front of the Ratinger Hof, an important hang-out for artists in Düsseldorf during the late 1970s and early 1980s, Kippenberger perhaps alludes to his own legendary drinking habits. Staggering through the streets of Düsseldorf in broad daylight and steadied by the support of his friend, the painting seems to affirm the constructed identity of Kippenberger as an avant-garde clown. Herein, the present work seems to at once efface and affirm the posturing traditionally associated with self-portraiture; an ambivalence that works to fuel the overarching narrative that drives both Kippenberger’s artistic persona and his art. By fully distancing himself from the technical act of painting and rebuffing conventional self-presentation, this work represents an even more authentic portrait of a paradoxically mythological figure whose life and art were utterly inextricable.