• Post-War & Contemporary Art Ev auction at Christies

    Sale 7758

    Post-War & Contemporary Art Evening Auction

    16 October 2009, London, King Street

  • Lot 9

    Martin Kippenberger (1953-1997)

    Paris Bar

    Price Realised  

    Martin Kippenberger (1953-1997)
    Paris Bar
    oil on canvas
    81½ x 149 7/8in. (207 x 380.8cm.)
    Painted in 1991


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    Painted in 1991, Martin Kippenberger's Paris Bar is a vast, almost life-sized interior of his friend Michel Würthle's Paris Bar, the artist's favourite Berlin haunt which has become inextricably linked with his life and work. The incredible dimensions of this picture, a rare feature in Kippenberger's paintings, mean that we, the viewers, are thrust into the bar itself, thrust into the contemplation of the paintings on display within this painting, each of which is presented almost on its own original scale. The Paris Bar was a forum for Kippenberger to declare his views, hang his pictures, and exhibit his collection, and Paris Bar is itself a record of this, a huge testimony to his role as painter, entertainer, teacher, collector and curator.

    Kippenberger himself felt at home in the Paris Bar, not least after his 1980 exchange with Würthle, his first art 'sale': free food and drink for himself and his companions for the rest of his life in exchange for his series of paintings, Uno di voi, un tedesco a Firenze. That series hung in the Paris Bar for a decade, from 1981 to 1991, having been hung by Kippenberger himself. After a decade, though, the restless artist arranged for a change. In Martin Kippenberger: Life and Work, the autobiographical notes reproduced at the back of most of the exhibition catalogues dedicated to Kippenberger, he wrote of 1991: 'Updates the art collection of the Paris Bar, Berlin, by adding works of artists including Louise Lawler, Laurie Simmons, Barbara Ess and Zoe Leonard' (Kippenberger, Life and Work, pp. 167-69, Krystof & Morgan (ed.), loc. cit. 2006, p. 169). Kippenberger curated an exhibition that year consisting of works from his own collection. The exhibited paintings formed a part of Kippenberger's own art collection. This new exhibition had itself been timed as a deliberately contrary gesture, coinciding with the Metropolis show at the Gropius House to which he had not been invited.

    Depicting the left wall of the show, Paris Bar was created to immortalise his exhibition. As a further play on the nature of the exhibition, this picture itself would later hang elsewhere in the Paris Bar, visible on entry to the customers, a monumental, playful trompe-l'oeil extravaganza. This resulted in an intriguing reflexivity, one that was immortalised in its later manifestations.

    For, as is so often the case with Kippenberger's works, Paris Bar soon began to take on a strange life of its own. As Würthle has said, 'It's a story which continues today and is still active.' When the present work was requested for the 1993 retrospective given to Kippenberger at the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, he responded by creating a second painting of Paris Bar hanging on the wall, with more chairs and tables in the foreground. This picture-within-a-picture showing Paris Bar in the Paris Bar was therefore sent to Paris for an exhibition in which one of the key subjects was Kippenberger's time spent in Paris. As a further extension, that painting, which previously belonged to a German collector, now belongs to one of the most important French collectors and is currently hanging in the Palazzo Grassi in Venice.

    This is an indication of the complex, slippery, often ungraspable type of playful conceptual somersaults that fill so much of Kippenberger's work. Even now, though, the story of this motif was far from over: the present work finally left the Paris Bar in 2004, Daniel Richter was asked to create a hommage to the painting and created his own trompe l'oeil version, which now sits in the Paris Bar. Other artists have subsequently paid similar tribute to both the Paris Bar and Kippenberger in variations of this theme.

    These acts of appropriation had, at their heart, Kippenberger's own original exhibition. For Paris Bar shows Kippenberger indulging in a self-celebratory act of visual piracy, taking the works by other artists from his own collection and showing them as his own achievement. That many of the works represented come from the artists of the appropriation art movement adds another gleeful twist to this painting which, despite being deliberately deadpan in style when compared to many of Kippenberger's other paintings, shows the artist revelling in curiouser and curiouser examples of sleight-of-hand.

    Paris Bar is a characteristically Kippenbergian celebration of, well, Kippenberger: he celebrates himself as artist, as collector and as curator. He is laying claim to a range of art historical precedents, from the café paintings of the Impressionists to Teniers' picture of Archduke Leopold Wilhelm of Austria in his gallery. At the same time, the exhibition prefigures his Museum of Modern Art Syros, the contemporary installation he made, with many artist friends, on the remote Greek island where he would spend his summers in Würthle's holiday home and which was also the location of the first station in his METRO-Net World Connection, his fictitious underground railway network. Perhaps Kippenberger is also commemorating his own vision as the mentor and therefore artistic predecessor to some of the artists whose works are shown within this Wunderkammer-like picture. Because of the profound connection between Kippenberger's life and his art, all of his works, and perhaps most of all Paris Bar, can be read as a form of self-portrait. Yet all of Kippenberger's self-portraits can be seen to throw into question the entire validity of pictorial representation, deliberately and tellingly concealing as much as they reveal.

    Special Notice

    VAT rate of 15% is payable on hammer price plus buyer's premium.


    Provenance

    Michel Würthle, Berlin.
    Galerie Volker Diehl, Berlin.
    Acquired from the above by the present owner.


    Pre-Lot Text

    'During the 80s and 90s there was no artist in the international scene who expanded the sphere of his activity, his responsibility and initiative further than Martin Kippenberger. Whether in the field of the poster or the invitation, the catalogue text or artist's book, painting or sculpture, photograph or drawing, gallery situation or transport, architecture or furniture, spectators' bench or speaker's rostrum, music or dance, art collection or museum, theory or card game, entertainment or private life, history or the present... he probed every aspect of the matter, on the lookout for opportunities in every last detail of the procedure. Nothing of what sets the operation in motion remained unexploited, and nothing was taken for granted' (R. Ohrt, 'Introduction', pp. 18-28, A. Taschen (ed.), Kippenberger, Cologne, 2003, p. 26).

    Martin Kippenberger remains, over a decade after his untimely death at the age of 44, one of the most influential artists of our era, as has been recently recognised with major retrospectives at Tate London, MOCA, Los Angeles and MoMA, New York. His artistic legacy is legion, and takes an almost baffling array of forms while tackling an incredible number of subjects. Kippenberger deliberately and knowingly created an output whose very multiplicity was its driving force; a consistent, career-long strategy of destabilisation. Railing against the constraints of style and ideology that he considered hampered so many artists in the post-War period, especially in Germany, he created a protean range of works which constantly and consistently challenged notions of what art, and indeed artists, should be, in social, political, stylistic and moral terms alike. By its many turns deeply intellectual, consciously provocative and cheekily evasive, Martin Kippenberger's multifaceted art was deliberately pre-occupied with the mechanics of style in society as a reference to society itself.

    Growing up, Kippenberger explained that he was surrounded by 'prints, covering the walls from floor to ceiling: works by Beckmann, Corinth, Heckel, the German Expressionists, Marino Marini, Picasso and lots of kitsch' (Kippenberger, quoted in D. Baumann, 'Parachever Picasso/Completing Picasso: Interview between Martin Kippenberger and Daniel Baumann', pp. 59-65, D. Krystof & J. Morgan (ed.), Martin Kippenberger, exh. cat., London 2006, p. 59). This encouraged him to take matters into his own hands, digesting these influences and then spitting them out systematically in a manner that would set the tenor for much of the rest of his career:

    'When I was ten, I started producing things in my own room. I worked my way through the whole of art history, as I found it on the walls in our house. First this way, then that, I imitated all the different styles, but not by copying them, I realised that it wasn't that great, what they'd been doing...'I drew my way through all the art books on the book shelves. That helped me to see things more clearly than if I'd just looked at the pictures. You find out how difficult it is to do certain things, that you're just not able. Then my father said that if I wanted to be an artist, I'd have to find my own style. That was the hardest thing of all for me. Finding my own style, I got very stuck until I suddenly realised that having no style is also a style, so that's what I did. That set me free' (Kippenberger, quoted in ibid., p. 59).

    Kippenberger's freedom, his embracing of 'no style,' allowed him to explore, exploit and investigate the cult of the artist in works that took in styles stretching from Neo-Expressionism to Pop to Photorealism to Minimalism to Appropriation. And each style that he touched emerged far from unscathed, knocked from its pedestal by this committed conceptual iconoclast. As he said, 'Don't worry about style but about what you want to say.'

    It is this chewing up and spitting out of the past, as well as his role as artist-cum-entertainer, that lie at the heart of both Paris Bar and Kellner Des.... In these large, important paintings, Kippenberger paid his own knowing and irreverent tribute to the interrelationship between the world of the bars and the world of art that had reached such a furious peak a century earlier, in the age of Edouard Manet and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. 'Entertainment and art are not isolated,' Kippenberger explained. 'Entertainment is in art like colour in pictures' (Kippenberger, quoted in Taschen, op.cit., 2003, p. 84). This he demonstrated in Paris Bar and Kellner Des... both in the fact that these pictures showed bars and in the fact that they were shown in bars in which Kippenberger himself often held court. In a sense, these pictures, so tied up with his own life, lifestyle, friends and environment, are an extension of the artist himself, a facet of self-portraiture made all the more impressive by their rare scale and all the more playful by the fact that while each motif contains his work as either artist or curator, he himself plays an artistic game of hide-and-seek and is visible in neither.

    It seems no coincidence that it was in the Paris Bar that Kippenberger was so often to be found. Throughout the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, the names of certain bars became legendary in their own rights, the source of their reputation often being the meetings that had taken place there and the decisions made. Perhaps the greatest art historical precedent was the Café Guerbois, where so many of the Impressionists would meet in a regular salon at the dawn of the movement in order to compare their works and their ideas. And they became invaluable subjects in their own right, the nightlife so heartily embraced by many of the artists of the past 150 years being captured in scandalous images of the cabaret, of drinking women, of the demi-monde which so often inspired the great advances in art. Be it Toulouse-Lautrec, Picasso or Sartre, Paris' bars appear to have paved the way for other venues in other cities such as Zurich's Cabaret Voltaire, London's Colony Rooms and New York's Cedar Bar and Studio 54, and indeed in the Café Deutschland paintings of another Paris Bar client, Jörg Immendorff. Still today the names of the Moulin Rouge, the Lapin Agile, the Folies-Bergères, the Café de Flore resonate and exert their fascination. Kippenberger took these societal and cultural legends as the theme for his life as art and brought them to their ultimate philosophical conclusion.

    Nowhere is this more true than in Paris Bar and Kellner Des.... Both pictures show the incredible network of associations that make Kippenberger's works so fascinating and intellectually engaging. Each depicts a bar at almost lifesize, one from the inside, the other from the outside; and both hung in the bars that they depict. They therefore blurred the line, already so gleefully disregarded, between Kippenberger's life and art. Both show works related to the artist himself: Kellner Des... shows one of his Laterne an Betrunkene sculptures installed in a street, while Paris Bar records an exhibition he himself curated of his own art collection. In this way, each work becomes a sort of self-portrait-by-other-means, an extension of the artist's persona but also an extension of his vision for the integration of art and society. In a reality TV and celebrity obsessed culture, these theories seem more relevant now than ever before.


    Literature

    R. Dorment, 'The Good, the Bad and the Ugly' in The Telegraph, London, 27 January 2005.
    A. M. Gingeras, 'Kippenbergiana, Avant-Garde Sign Value in Contemporary Painting' in The Triumph of Painting, London 2005, p. 6.
    Martin Kippenberger, exh. cat., London, Tate Modern, 2006, fig. 22 (illustrated in colour, p. 55).
    Martin Kippenberger: The Problem Perspective, exh. cat., Los Angeles, The Museum of Contemporary Art, 2008 (installation view, illustrated in colour, p. 192).


    Exhibited

    Berlin, Paris Bar, 1991-2004 (on permanent display).
    London, Saatchi Gallery, The Triumph of Painting, January-October 2005 (incorrectly dated '1993', illustrated in colour, pp. 14-15). This exhibition later travelled to Leeds, City Art Gallery, January-March 2006.