Lot 20
  • 20

Sigmar Polke

80,000 - 120,000 GBP
Log in to view results
bidding is closed


  • Sigmar Polke
  • Untitled
  • signed and dated 2000
  • interference paint on paper
  • 100 by 70 cm. 39 3/8 by 27 1/2 in.


Private Collection, Vienna (acquired from the artist)
Acquired from the above by the present owner


Colour: The colours in the catalogue illustration are fairly accurate, although the colours change from blue to purple depending on the viewpoint of the spectator. Condition: This work is in good condition. The sheet is laid down on the mount and undulates. Visible only when examined out of its frame, there is frame rubbing in places along the edges, particularly to the left edge, with associated losses.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

“Are you the great alchemist?,” a journalist once asked Sigmar Polke at an award ceremony in Germany (Heidrun Wirth, ‘Bilder können tanzen und singen’, Kölnische Rundschau, 22 June 2007). Although the artist ducked the question by throwing a handful of polystyrene chips over his shoulder in response (pointing out the ridiculousness of this proposition and simultaneously showing his appreciation through his equally absurd reaction), there is a serious undertone to the question that has driven some of Polke’s most inventive works. Undoubtedly one of the most radically experimental artists of the Twentieth Century, the four decades of his illustrious practice spans a variety of mediums including painting, drawing, photography, video and performance that have had a remarkable influence on subsequent generations of artists. As John Baldessari remarked: “Compare a similar artist’s work to Polke and it looks stiff and laboured. His work emanates the stuff of life – it’s music. His work is a font of ideas. Any one move can provide a career for a lesser artist.” (John Baldessari quoted in: Exh. Cat., San Francisco, San Francisco Museum of Art, Sigmar Polke, 1990, p. 20).

More than any artist of our time, Polke has embraced the endless potential of materials and made them work in ways that were previously unheard of. In his early work from the 1960s Polke had already been interested in unorthodox materials such as printed fabrics, but it was only after his decade-long break from painting in the 1970s that he fully embraced a new approach to the application of materials. Rather than determining the application of the paint, Polke started to use chance as a key element in the composition of his works, letting the materials’ natural motion dictate the outcome of the work: “Polke allowed materials to determine the process rather than the other way around, a strategy that can be seen as a means of removing subjectivity or the authorial power of the artist from the act of painting” (Mark Godfrey in: Exh. Cat., New York, The Museum of Modern Art, (and travelling), Alibis: Sigmar Polke 1963-2010, 2014, p. 134).

By letting the paint and pigments freely flow his works, creating mesmerising patterns with materials and gravity as compositional tools, Polke developed a method of painting that effectively removed the artist’s subjectivity from his work. Untitled perfectly captures Polke’s exploratory spirit, with luscious washes of paint dripping down from the dramatic black background. The artist’s characteristic use of dispersion paint, which changes appearance based on the perspective of the viewer and goes from bright blue to a deep purple, further emphasises his interest in undermining fixed compositional elements through the use of unorthodox materials.

As a powerful example of Sigmar Polke’s mystifying material and pictorial strategies, Untitled embodies some of the artist’s greatest accomplishments. His innovative approach and relentless experimentation with material and image have made him one of the most influential artists of the last century - indeed earning him the reputation as the Great Alchemist of contemporary art.