Press releases archivPressreleasesarchiv
Sigmar Polke
120 x 150 cm
Crayon and latex paint on fabric

Museum Frieder Burda, Baden-Baden
Photo: Museum Frieder Burda
No royalties for publication if related to the exhibition

Sigmar Polke
varnish; ballpen on canvas
double-sided painted
170 x 130 cm

Collection Reiner Speck
No royalties for publication if related to the exhibition in the Museum Frieder Burda, Baden-Baden

Sigmar Polke
300 x 220 cm
Artificial lacquer on synthetic cotton
signed on stretcher

Museum Frieder Burda, Baden-Baden
Photo: Museum Frieder Burda
No royalties for publication if related to the exhibition
Large Sigmar Polke retrospective at the Frieder Burda Museum in Baden-Baden
Download as Acrobat Reader file

Baden-Baden. Sigmar Polke, who was born in 1941, has emerged as one of the worldwide most important artists of postwar Germany. From February 3 to May 13, 2007, a huge exhibition at the Frieder Burda Museum in Baden-Baden is dedicated to this German artist, combining the three major Polke collections of Frieder Burda, Josef Froehlich and Reiner Speck. With its 170 paintings, „Polke – a retrospective. The collections of Frieder Burda, Josef Froehlich, Reiner Speck“ is one of the most comprehensive retrospectives that has been organized for many years.

This show includes 60 large-scale paintings and over 110 works on paper of the Cologne-based painter dating from 1963 to 2005 that attest the artist’s inexaustible love of experimentation and his breathtaking variety of style.

Götz Adriani, curator of the exhibition: „Thanks to the collaboration of these sophisticated collectors and their exemplary collections, the Frieder Burda Museum is able to present the whole range of Polke’s creative work.“ The Baden-Baden exhibition comprises works from more than four decades.

Raster drawings

While still a student at the Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf, Polke, among Richter and others, became a founding member of the school of „Capitalist Realism“, which sought to be perceived as an ironic take on the official socialist art school of the Eastern block countries as well as a critical attitude towards Pop Art and the western world of goods.

During this time, Polke creates his first „raster drawings“, which translate the various commercial and recreational imagery of postwar Western Germany when the economic miracle was in full swing. By magnifying halftone images and transfering them on canvases, he forces the eye on the surface of the raster dots themselves rather than on the original photographic image. Thus, paintings as the two „Freundinnen“ (Women friends) from 1965 and dreamlike „Interieur“ from 1966 gain an almost abstract structure of ornamental quality.

Polke’s drawings of that period provoke a similar disillusionment. He playfully combines ambitious iconography with low-key ballpoint-pen drawings on notebook paper and deliberately uses clumsy style or banal slogans such as „Warum nicht baden?“ (Why not having a bath) from 1963 and „Sekt für alle“ (Champagne for anybody) from 1964 to enmask reality.

Fabric paintings

Almost at the same time, Polke discovers industrially printed fabric as support for his paintings, thus elevating a minor mass product to high art: The respective pattern of a prime-store fabric becomes the background on which the motif develops, as in „$-Bild“ ($-painting) from 1971 and in „So sitzen Sie richtig“ (How to sit correctly) from 1982, where various fabrics and motifs borrowed from Francisco Goya and Max Ernst are combined to form a rich and allusive collage.


When Polke starts experimenting with dripping and flowing themes – he pours dispersion paint on his fabric support and tilt it to make the paint flow - his work gains a new telepathic and para-psychologic dimension, as can be seen in „Tischerücken“ (moving tables) from 1981. Since the 1980s, he also uses photo-chemicals for his paintings and creates works in which colours change over time or in response to light and temperature.


This experimental or so-called „alchimistic“ painting culminates in Polke’s transparencies that he creates since the second half of the 80s. Curtain cloth is stretched on a lying support and soaked with up to eight layers of artificial resins. Thus, the simple synthetic fabric becomes a mystic translucent base that allows the stretcher bars to shine through, as, for example, in „Gangsters“ (1988) or in „Weißer Raum“ (white room, 1994) where the criss-cross of the wooden frame enters into an irritating correspondance with the painting itself. Sometimes, as in „Triptychon“ (1996), he flings pigments between the different layers so that their particles form random clouds of diaphanous colours allowing multiple associative evocations.

The first retrospective that was exlusively dedicated to Sigmar Polke was held in 1976 at the Kunsthalle in Tübingen. It comprised the complete œuvre of the then 35 years young artist, including all paintings, fabrics and objects („Bilder, Tücher und Objekte“ was the title of the retrospective!) created during the years 1962 to 1971 and registered them chronologically.

„Following shows like the exhibitions in Rotterdam, Zürich and Paris made Polke one of the protagonists on the stage of the international art scene in the 1980s,“ writes Götz Adriani in the catalogue accompagnying the exhibition. „Since that time, he has always kept this position, being known as one of the world’s most renowned artists. His works made their entry into important collections and museums, they decorate the German Parliament in the Reichstag building of Berlin. Even the Museum of Modern Art in New York, todays uncontested authority for contemporary art, honored Polke as one of the first German artists with an exclusive exhibition in 1999, where his early works on paper were shown. Thanks to artists like Polke as well as Beuys, Richter, Baselitz and Kiefer, German art has regained its good reputation throughout the world. Only Dürer, Holbein the Younger and Adam Elzheimer at the beginning of the 17th century could enjoy such a resonance while living.“

The exhibition „Polke – a retrospective: the collections Frieder Burda, Josef Froehlich, Reiner Speck“ is accompagnied by a catalogue featuring an introduction by Götz Adriani and detailled interviews with Götz Adriani, Frieder Burda, Josef Froehlich and Reiner Speck. Hatje Cantz Verlag, 192 pages, about 185 coloured prints, € 28.00.

Baden-Baden, february 2nd, 2007

For your information: Polke – a retrospective: the collections Frieder Burda, Josef Froehlich, Reiner Speck“. Museum Frieder Burda, February 3, 2007 to May 13, 2007.

Museum Frieder Burda
Lichtentaler Alle 8b, 76530 Baden-Baden,
Phone: 07221 / 39898-0, Fax: 07221 / 39898-30

Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 11.00 – 18.00, Monday closed.

Preview: Warhol, Rauschenberg, Twombly, Kiefer
May 25 to October 7, 2007. The collection Erich Marx in Baden-Baden.

Press contact:
Horst Koppelstätter
Koppelstätter Kommunikation GmbH
Friedrichstr. 2, 76530 Baden-Baden
Phone: 07221/97372-11, Fax: 07221/97372-22