Lot 14
  • 14

SIGMAR POLKE | Doppelbild (Skyscraper)

550,000 - 750,000 EUR
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  • Sigmar Polke
  • Doppelbild (Skyscraper)
  • signed, titled, dated 80 and inscribed 1996 neu aufgespannt on the reverse of the right panel; signed and titled on the reverse of the left panel
  • acrylic, dispersion and silver paint on stitched fabric, on canvas support (in 2 parts)
  • 180,3 x 301 cm; 71 x 118 1/2 in. (overall)
  • Executed in 1980 and restretched by the artist in 1996.


Galerie Erhard Klein, Bad M√ľnstereifel
Private Collection (acquired from the above in 1996)
Acquired from the above by the present owner  


The colours in the catalogue illustration are fairly accurate. The fabric support is backed with unattached synthetic sail cloth stretched on two wooden stretchers. A wear mark is located on the adjoining lower corners where the two canvasses meet in the middle and there are tiny numerous holes throughout the stitched fabric layer on both panels, presumably original and therefore inherent to the work. The work is in very good condition.
"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

Delivering the punch of American Pop and the vigour of Abstract Expressionism, Doppelbild (Skyscraper) presents the viewer with a complex layering of sources and techniques that would come to characterise Sigmar Polke's momentous paintings of the 1980s. In this unique cityscape moonlit flashes of colour stand out against a tightly interlocked grid of white on a night-black background. With a pyramid of geometric blocks that evince the distinct outline of the Empire State Building, the city is unmistakeably New York, and yet, in this cosmic cabaret of painterly elements, the metropolis scene ultimately becomes a vehicle for meditation on the act of painting itself. Both in style and subject Doppelbild (Skyscraper) draws close parallels to Stadtbild I and II from 1968 in the artist's canon, the first of which is housed in the Neue Galerie, Museumlandschaft Hessen, Kassel. By revisiting this subject in the 1980s Polke self-reflectively looks back and re-mixes his earlier work; an impetus underlined by his use of commercially available printed fabric owing to his first use of this during the 1960s. This retroactive approach and re-sampling  of recognisable Polkian symbols chimes with the contemporaneous direction of art production during the 1980s, in which appropriation and institutional critique dominated. The elusive Polke produced work of astonishing diversity and versatility throughout his career and forged a painterly vocabulary that was utterly unique in its embrace of innovative artistic forms and ideas. His works teasingly defy categorisation, eluding association with conventional art historical movements in favour of an eclectic stylistic language. A time of extraordinary creative ferment, the 1980s saw Polke receive serious international critical consideration: just two years after the creation of Doppelbild (Skyscraper), the artist showed at documenta and in 1986 he represented Germany at the Venice Biennale. Having given up painting for most of the 1970s in favour of experimenting with other media such as photography and film, Polke returned to it with renewed energy in the 1980s. By this time, his work had gained a new vitality and pictorial dynamism akin to the radical brilliance of his paintings of the 1960s.

The artist's influential practice has continually drawn attention from major artists and collectors alike and his seminal importance in contemporary art history was once again confirmed with the major retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Tate Modern in London, and the Museum Ludwig in Cologne during 2014-2015. Displaying a spellbinding tension between abstraction and figuration Doppelbild (Skyscraper) stands as a true testament to the artist's extraordinary creative innovations of the 1980s and epitomises that judgement made of Polke by the director of Tate Britain, Alex Farquharson: "Polke's works were everything painting wasn't supposed to be: vulgar, mocking, parodic, decorative, heterotopic, discontinuous, self-reflexive and self-critical... By the 1980s, Polke was the consummate and emblematic Post-modern painter" (Alex Farquharson, 'Sigmar Polke', Frieze Magazine, No. 81, March 2004, online). Staging a return to the subject and medium that propelled Polke to early critical acclaim, Doppelbild (Skyscraper) signals the beginning of a tremendously productive and applauded decade for the artist.