The late, infamous Berlin legend Martin Kippenberger, former manager of SO36 and founder of Büro Kippenberger and “Sehr Gut” magazine, returns to the city just in time for his would-be 60th birthday.
Hundreds of visitors flocked to the opening of Sehr Gut at Hamburger Bahnhof on February 22 to the point that the museum had to temporarily close its front doors to manage the influx of people. Over 300 of his works are exhibited within the 280 square metres of the museum’s grand Rieckhallen halls. The exhibition is not a retrospective but rather a birthday ode and exploration of thematic complexities in the work of a man whose life and art cannot be separated.
Kippenberger’s life was short and sweet. He was known as much for his hubristic persona, excessive lifestyle and provocative public habits as for his art, which has steadily appreciated in value since his death in 1997 at the age of 44 due to liver cirrhosis. The man was a painter, a writer, a performer, a self-proclaimed exhibitionist, a drunk, and a brute – some might call him a visionary who flew too close to the sun.
Murky palettes pop in unexpected ways through subtle yet significant balance with softer, shining hues that glow inside the gloom. Included in the exhibition is also a series of rarely seen “White Pictures”, white monochrome canvases painted with white text embedded in a white wall, almost disappearing within it. Further rooms contain sculptures with attention-grabbing magentas and metallic neons. His consistency lies not in his colours but in the clairvoyance of parody that never ceases to inhabit his work. His use of irony persuasively mocked art for the consequential liberation of it.
Formally compared to the likes of Picasso and Beuys, Kippenberger’s distinguishing attribute is his prevailing focus on the individual’s identity, particularly his own. Many of the images, whether painted, rendered or photographed, depict a single figure who conveys incredible emotion through stark gestures that deliver immense feeling. Clearly, the man could put on a show.
Much of his prolific body of work belongs to private collections as well as the Friedrich Christian Flick collection, which has cooperated with the National Museums of Berlin to produce the exhibition.
Sehr Gut, Feb 23-Aug 18 | Hamburger Bahnhof
Originally published in issue #115, April 2013