Martin Kippenberger: Sehr Gut Very Good / Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin

In 2013 Martin Kippenberger, the enfant terrible of the German art scene, would have celebrated his 60th birthday. On this occasion, Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin is dedicating a special exhibition to the artist, who died in 1997 due to an excessive life. The show characterizes Martin Kippenberger as an artist, whose work and life cannot be separated from one another, and as an artist, who is considered one of the most significant of his generation. After the last major Martin Kippenberger retrospective entitled The Problem Perspective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2009, the exhibition Martin Kippenberger: Sehr Gut | Very Good at Hamburger Bahnhof is another attempt to approach the life and work of Martin Kippenberger. Kippenberger’s works are exhibited at several places in the building. On display are works such as the painting Paris Bar (1993), and the wall sculpture Zuerst die Füsse (1991) (the infamous crucified frog). In this video, curator Britta Schmitz talks about the artist and the exhibition. The exhibition runs until August 18, 2013. A video with impressions from the opening reception is available after the break.

Martin Kippenberger: Sehr Gut | Very Good / Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin. Press preview, February 21, 2013. Video by Frantisek Zachoval.

Watch also: Martin Kippenberger: The Problem Perspective / Museum of Modern Art MoMA, New York.

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Martin Kippenberger: Sehr Gut | Very Good at Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart in Berlin. Opening reception (3:00 Min.):

Press release:

In 2013 Martin Kippenberger would have celebrated his 60th birthday – that is, had he not died in 1997 due to an excessive life. At several places in the building, the Hamburger Bahnhof currently exhibits an artist whose work and life cannot be separated from one another – a painter, an actor, a writer, a musician, a drunkard, a dancer, a traveller, a charmer, an enfant terrible and self-producer – in short, an “exhibitionist” as he called himself and an artist who today is considered one of the most significant of his generation. The permeation of personality and oeuvre, as well as the incredible variety of his artistic production, is now presented in its entire spectrum. “Martin Kippenberger: sehr gut | very good” however does not intend to be a retrospective, but rather an approximation of both the private and public persona of the artist Martin Kippenberger.

Even if Kippenberger only spent a few years in West-Berlin (1978-1981), it was here that he developed important topics of his artistic cosmos. Hence he announced that “Berlin needed a new coat of paint” and made a name for himself as a short-term co-owner of the legendary punk club SO36 and operator of the “Büro Kippenberger.” Besides performing as a musician in the band “Luxus” or respectively as an actor, he also once created for Claudia Skoda a floor collage as a catwalk for her Kreuzberg studio that he made from 1,300 photos from the fashion designer’s environment. For the duration of the exhibition, the collage is shown in the historic passage in the East Wing. With the series “Uno di voi, un tedesco in Firenze” (1976-1977) he had still performed as a painter using oil and canvas, but in Berlin he traded large parts of this series for free food and drinks at the legendary Paris Bar (which he also then painted). With his series “Lieber Maler, Male mir” (1981) he shortly thereafter subverted the cliché of the genius painter by ordering large-format images from a movie poster painter. In spite of public indignations that Kippenberger repeatedly caused, with works such as “Martin, ab in die Ecke und schäm dich” (1989) he managed to distil something positive.

A multiple installation – often referred to as “white paintings” (1991) and so far rarely shown – can be seen on the main building’s first floor: eleven white canvases that are embedded into the wall, virtually becoming one with it. Upon approaching the work one recognises glossy children’s handwriting on the images, which quasi certifies Kippenberger’s work by grading it throughout with the mark “very good” – of course on request of the artist. Yet, “Martin Kippenberger: sehr gut | very good” does not only refer to the white paintings but also to a magazine Kippenberger published in 1978 called “sehr gut. very good.”

In the midst of all this irony however the exhibition also reveals a human being who needed to combat his sickness through art. Kippenberger painted himself in the pose of the shipwrecked from Théodore Géricaults famous painting from 1819: bloated, aged, exhausted. Self-portrayal is in fact an essential part of his work and life, which is why there is an abundance of photographs and in particular self-portraits. A selection of photographs allows for a differentiated perspective of Kippenberger – thirty years after he left Berlin: “Art is always only looked at in retrospect anyway… I would say that the period is twenty years. […] Whatever the people will or will not continue to talk about me is what matters. Whether I spread good fun or not. And so what I’m working on is that the people will be able to say: Kippenberger was good fun!”

Curated by Udo Kittelmann and Britta Schmitz, Co-Curator: Miriam Halwani.