David Hockney (b. 1937)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE EUROPEAN COLLECTION
Sigmar Polke (1941-2010)

Bambusbild (Bamboo Picture)

Sigmar Polke (1941-2010)
Bambusbild (Bamboo Picture)
signed and dated 'S Polke 67' (lower left); signed 'S. Polke' (on the overlap)
dispersion on printed fabric
35 3/8 x 29 ½in. (90 x 75cm.)
Executed in 1967
Ingrid von Oppenheim, Cologne, thence by descent.
Private Collection, Cologne.
Anon. sale, Sotheby's London, 26 June 1996, lot 48.
Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne.
Private Collection, Europe (acquired from the above in 1996).
Thence by descent to the present owners.
Tübingen, Kunsthalle, Sigmar Polke: Bilder-Tücher-Objekte-Werkauswahl 1962-1972, 1976, no. 134, p. 159, (illustrated inverted, p. 64; incorrectly dated 1969). This exhibition later travelled to Dusseldorf, Städtische Kunsthalle and Eindhoven, Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum.
Berlin, Bruno Brunett Fine Arts, Sigmar Polke, Gemeinschaftswerk Aufschwung Ost, curated by Michael Trier, 1993, no. 35 (illustrated inverted, unpaged).
New York, Michael Werner Gallery, Sigmar Polke: Paintings from the 60s and 70s, 1995-1996. This exhibition later travelled to Cologne, Galerie Michael Werner, as Sigmar Polke: Frühe Arbeiten (illustrated in colour, unpaged).
Neuss, Langen Foundation, Homage an Marianne Langen - works from the collection, 2011-2012 (installation view illustrated in colour, p. 19).
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.
Further details
We are grateful to Michael Trier from the Estate of Sigmar Polke for the information he has kindly provided.

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Tessa Lord
Tessa Lord

Lot Essay

Bambusbild (Bamboo-Picture) is a magnificently playful and humorous Stoffbild or Fabric-Painting made by Sigmar Polke in 1967. With its vibrant, Jackson Pollocklike swirls, its trompe-l’oeil bamboo trellis and its seemingly carefree painterly abstraction, the painting is a glorious fusion of faux-exotic pattern and décor deliberately intended to mock both petit-bourgeois aspiration and the lofty pretentions of so-called ‘High-Art’. Brazen, unorthodox and yet also strangely mesmerizing, Bambusbild is an ultimately indefinable work of art that was one of a select group of Polke’s famously irreverent and epoch-defining Stoffbilder chosen for the artist’s first retrospective exhibition held in Tübingen, Düsseldorf and Eindhoven in 1976. With its unique inclusion of a trompe l’oeil trellis of bamboo diagonally dissecting the near-psychedelic swirl of industrially-manufactured fabric below it, Bambusbild is also a work that invokes the deliberately ironic, pseudo-scientific experiments that Polke was making with bamboo during this extraordinarily all-important early stage in his career.

First begun in 1964, Polke’s celebrated Stoffbilder are a series of often deliberately anti-aesthetic pictures using predominantly kitsch, romantic and exotic subject-matter, typical of much German bourgeois interior décor of post-war era, in which the artist mocked both the banal, escapist dreams of the ordinary middle-class West German and the often exultant claims of 1960s contemporary art. A particular target of Polke’s irony in these Cold-War era paintings was American-led abstraction and the idea, then widely promoted in the Capitalist West to which Polke had emigrated, that such abstraction somehow represented freedom and/or an ennobling of the spirit of man. In Bambusbild with its vibrant fabric print of Pollock-like swirling loops Polke appears to be lampooning the great American king of Abstract Expressionism, with whom he once said he felt an affinity, on account of their similar names. In 1968, Polke was to mount another playful artistic attack on the cult of mysticism and individualism that underpinned the spontaneity and automatism of Pollock’s drip-painting practice with his own drip-painting-like canvas filled with insults: Das grosse Schimpftuch or ‘The Large Cloth of Abuse’.

Colourful, playful and highly inventive abstract paintings in their own right, Polke’s Stoffbilder are ostensibly just the sort of paintings that the West German art market of the mid-1960s, then in awe of the Americans, appeared to desire. It was for this reason too that Polke’s own colourful fabric-based abstractions, like Bambusbild, were created using manifestly banal and humorous motifs drawn from the most mundane and banal motifs of middle-class, bourgeois life. It was a way of revealing how, in post-war West German culture, the formal language of abstraction and its revolutionizing and liberating aspirations had, by the mid-1960s, descended to the level of mere fashion and décor. Instead of using canvas, for example, Polke sourced elaborate and exotically patterned industrial fabrics on which to paint, subsequently augmenting their printed abstractions or repetitive motifs with familiar images taken from the new DIY stores and home-decoration stores. Thus, images of palm-trees, flamingos or, as in this work, a trellis of bamboo - motifs familiar to exotic foreign holiday brochures and symbolic of the kind of faux-exoticism with which bourgeois West German families in the 1960s were decorating their homes - became the pictorial tools of Polke’s own ‘abstractions’.

Polke’s choice of bamboo in this work is also probably more than just a mockery of contemporary bourgeois taste and a reflection on the popularity of bamboo as both an exotic household plant and a mainstream material of interior design in the late 1960s. In other Polke works of the period, such as his installation called The Attempted Resuscitation of Bamboo of 1967 where the artist stood a number of bamboo poles in a bowl of water in the vain hope of re-growing them, or his photo-collage entitled Bamboo Pole Loves Folding Ruler Star of 1968 (in which bamboo stalks were used to make astral patterns on the wall), bamboo was employed as a key element in Polke’s increasingly anti-rational, pseudoscientific experiments. Bamboo was an element that operated, alongside such other supposedly ordinary things as peas (which Polke used as a means of communicating with aliens) and potatoes (which he claimed were a mystical source of creativity), very much at the heart of Polke’s precocious pantheon of mundane, everyday materials containing hidden, magical properties.

Bambusbild is therefore a work that sits very much at the heart of Polke’s extraordinarily varied, multidisciplinary aesthetic of the late 1960s. On the one hand, with its deliberately confusing mix of different types of representational image, Bambusbild is a typical Stoffbild that, through its unique blend of abstraction, illusionism and (predominantly bad) taste, openly plays with, exposes and exploits the shortcomings and conventional boundaries of painterly and pictorial practice. But on the other, with its apparent celebration of bamboo, the painting is also a work that, like Polke’s knowingly provocative invocation of aliens or ‘higher beings’ at this time, champions the essentially Romantic belief in art as a tool of mind-expanding and boundary-breaking potential capable of discovering or opening up new worlds.

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