Martin Kippenberger at Hamburger Bahnhof

photo: Martin Kippenberg, Ohne Titel (aus der Serie Lieber Maler, male mir), 1981.

One thing that always annoys and bores me about (modern) art is a lack of humor. In my opinion, there are too few exceptions like Maurizio Cattelan. In Germany, it was most importantly Martin Kippenberger who shook things up in the art world. Right now, Hamburger Bahnhof presents an extensive exhibition of his work. Get more information and check out a preview after the jump.

Martin Kippenberger’s (1953-1997) art was actually all about humour. He was the enfant terrible of the German post-war art scene, an eccentric art clown that made fun of literally everything. Kippenberger rejected any kind of intellectualism and academism; in contrary, he celebrated being a dilettante like only few artists before him. For him, producing art was just like a children’s game: he was playing around with the materials in a completely free way, not burdened by art tradition, moral values, philosophical ideas or anything else. He never had the ambition to produce immortal, ingenious masterpieces. For Kippenberger, art was just good fun.

At the retrospective at Hamburger Bahnhof, we get to see many aspects of his oeuvre: installations and drawings, paintings and photos, publications and videos, even some of music can be heard (which actually is very annoying; the museum guards who have to listen to it all day long have my strongest empathy). We get to see Snow White’s coffin, a series of portraits of Louis de Funès, a selection of his numerous hotel paper drawings and many of his exhibition posters, which have become legendary.

The exhibition also features many of Kippenberger’s well known works, such as Zuerst die Füße (Feet first), the frogs that he nailed on crosses in Jesus-like manner. (These pieces of course caused a big scandal during his lifetime.)

The retrospective (which is not supposed to be one) at Hamburger Bahnhof is huge, it features more than 300 works. If you are exposed to that much of Kippenberger at one place, you not only see the strong sides of his work, but also the weak sides. For instance, it becomes rather obvious that quantity does not equal quality, and you can see quite clearly that his works have aged over the years. And also some of the jokes sound really lame today. Kippenberger actually had an unsympathetic affinity to “Herrenwitz”, a term that is hard to translate into English; it means the kind of dirty jokes that ugly old men tell each other in a pub. Kippenberg was often criticized for doing “Kneipenkunst” (pub art) – which indeed is not entirely wrong. Ironically, one of his most famous (and expensive) works is called Paris Bar. Anyhow, I personally still prefer a minor work by Kippenberger to a deadly-serious postmodern art installation that tries to visualize an obscure concept of Derrida.

Martin Kippenberger: sehr gut | very good will be shown at Hamburger Bahnhof until 18 August 2013. The admission for the special exhibition is 8 Euro (reduced: 4 Euro).

Credits: All pictures by Martin Kippenberg. © Estate Martin Kippenberger, Galerie Gisela Capitain, Köln; 1) Ohne Titel (aus der Serie Lieber Maler, male mir), 1981. 2) Einladungskarte zur Ausstellung “Helmut Newton für Arme. Selbst-beschmutzende Nestwärme – bis ´84. Collagen und Fotografien”, 1985. 3) Zuerst die Füße, 1991. 4) Paris Bar, 1993.

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<a href="" target="_self">Jens</a>