A. R. Penck (1939-2017)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more
A. R. Penck (1939-2017)

Übergang (Crossing)

A. R. Penck (1939-2017)
Übergang (Crossing)
dispersion on canvas
51 1/8 x 63in. (130 x 160cm.)
Painted in 1980
Galerie Michael Werner, Cologne.
Sonnabend Gallery, New York.
The Aldrich Foundation Collection, Ridgefield, CT.
Anon. sale, Christie's New York, 4 May 1995, lot 247.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Cologne, Galerie Michael Werner, a.Y.(A.R. PENCK), 1980.
Gent, Vereniging Aktuele Kunst, a.Y. A.R. Penck. Overgang/Übergang, 1981, no. 2 (illustrated).
New York, Sonnabend Gallery, A.R. Penck. Paintings, 1981.
Special notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

Lot Essay

'In many respects Penck’s strategy can be compared to that of Picasso, who possessed the ability to experience his own biography as a source of general insights which touched on deep levels of Western myth and psychology.' SIEGFRIED GOHR

In 1980, A. R. Penck finally fled from the German Democratic Republic (GDR), immigrating to West Germany after years of personal state surveillance. Übergang was executed the same year, and conveys something of the liberation that Penck experienced at the time. Painted in his typical visual vernacular, a stick figure tentatively creeps across an interlocked network of patterns and shapes. To its right, another character bars his way back, grasping a shield. The literal translation of the German title is ‘crossing over’, but the term was also employed by the GDR to refer to authorised transfer points along the Berlin Wall. Thus, Penck’s picture seemingly captures a moment of mobile emancipation, fleeing from East to West. Whilst this ‘crossing’ leitmotif had been explored by Penck for some time in a variety of guises and styles, here the metaphor for transference is optimistically celebratory, with vibrant red motifs dancing around the retreater and the Volkspolizei officer, who blocks the way back.

Penck launched his lexicon of hieroglyphic stick figures alongside a library of shapes, icons and motifs in the 1960s, terming the style Standart (an aggregate of the English word ‘standard’ and the German term ‘standarte’, a reference to military banners). This visual language, Penck claimed, resonated with a socialistically utopian democratisation of art, ubiquitous and universal in nature. Writing retrospectively in 1984, Penck declared ‘I maintain that a picture is an essential criteria for determining the condition of the system and that every proceeding involved with paintings represents such a criteria’ (A. R. Penck, ‘From My Vantage Point’, reproduced in J. Yau, A. R. Penck, New York, 1993, p. 117). Penck’s work, as exemplified by Übergang, voiced the immediate socio-political concerns of a pre-unification Germany on an accessible level. These momentary glimpses of pivotal events, told in a distinctive and engaging style, have become crucial visual documents of German post-war history.

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