Martin Kippenberger at Hamburger Bahnhof Berlin

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„Pitted against the giants, Kippenberger may be a bloated windbag, but his is the greater humor“, Laura Cumming wrote im the Observer when the first big retrospective of the German artist was shown in Tate Modern 2006. An in fact feckless assumption on one of the rare genius German postwar artists. Even with his self-destructive sides Martin Kippenberger’s humor was part of a very complex criticism on the society around him inclusively the art world.

His paintings very not always but very often technically masterpieces and his ridiculing aphorisms connect historically to a long rooted German philosophical tradition: the artist as the anarchist voice of the people, who traditionally very often didn’t or couldn’t dare to be anarchists. Poet Heinrich Heine (1797-1856) for example died in French Exile, but undoubtedly he was the reformer of German literature language. He wrote in the “language oıf the people” and was able to integrate lot’s of folksong and satirical poetry elements in the so called “high poetry and literature”.

Martin Kippenberger’s writings in some ways remind Heine’s fine satirical poetry. 1983 the artist exhibited eight paintings under the title “eight pictures to reflect, if it is going on like this”. On the first picture you see a squatting dog painted in an expressionist style. A flexible tube is connected to hiş mouth and to a container on his back. It could be a container with alcohol, water or urine, it looks daily but it isn’t at all. For sure like in the cycles about the crucified frog it is also partly a self portrait. The writing on the picture contradicts German’s love for their dogs with their devote saintliness: “Jesus gave me the courage for this”. For what the courage is needed isn’t clear and isn’t important, it’s just an absurd provocative sentence in this composition and reminds one verse in Heines’s famous poem “Germany, a winter fairytale”. “A new song, a better song, I want to compose for my friends, about a heaven we (not the church) create on earth”.

There are a couple of different versions of the motive crucified frog. The first one was a green frog holding a beer jar in the one hand and an egg in the other. It had the title: “the feet first”(1990). The work was partly connected to Kippenberger’s attemt to change his exessive lifestyle and to get clean from dependencies during that period, which he never really managed. Anyway the connection to the crucified Jesus, which he used very much as a metaphor in his art, caused a huge scandal 2008, when it was shown in the Museum for Modern Art in Bozen. With the support of Pope Benedict XVI. the President of the Council for South-Tirol, Franz Pahl, started a public hunger strike to force the Museum to remove the Wall-Installation. With no success, it remained until the end of the exhibition. Kippenberger, who had died in 1997 already, has a devoted circle of admirers and enemies as well until today.

For sure he reached one aim. He wanted to be the “King of Trashculture”. This modest attitude, beside lot’s of deeper impacts, keeps his art alive until today.

23.02.-28.02.13 at the National Gallery Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin

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