Martin Kippenberger “Very Good” at the Hamburger Bahnhof

Opening Feb. 22, 2013

Exhibition runs until Aug. 18, 2013

Very good indeed.

Infamous Berlin legend, the late Martin Kippenberger, 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 22nd 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 3,000 square feet of the museum’s grand Rieckhallen halls. Celebrated in major museum shows in New York, Venice, Karlsruhe, and London, Kippenberger is finally back home in Berlin, where he managed the famed Kreuzberg nightclub SO36 and founded Buro Kippenberger, where he published his magazine, Sehr Gut. The exhibition is not a retrospective but rather a birthday ode; an 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 is 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. In short, he was a visionary who flew too close to the sun.

Murky palettes pop in unexpected ways through a 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 colors 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 or 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.

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.

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!”

Hamburg, 1975, Estate Martin Kippinberger, Galerie Gisela Capitain, Köln

From the series Eight Pictures for Pondering Whether Things Can Go On Like This, 1983, Friedrich Christian Collection in the Hamburger Bahnhof

Please Don’t Send Me Home, 1983, Private Collection

Untitled, 1988, Friedrich Christian Collection in the Hamburger Bahnhof

Melancholia, documenta IX, Kassel, 1992, Estate Martin Kippinberger, Galerie Gisela Capitain, Köln

Untitled, 1991, Friedrich Christian Collection in the Hamburger Bahnhof

all works on view at the Hamburger Bahnhof

more here