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Georg Baselitz (B. 1938)
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Georg Baselitz (B. 1938)

Meine neue Mütze (My New Cap)

Details
Georg Baselitz (B. 1938)
Meine neue Mütze (My New Cap)
oil on cedar wood
122¾ x 34 5/8 x 39¾in. (312 x 88 x 101cm.)
Executed in 2003
Provenance
Gagosian Gallery, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in January 2005.
Literature
Baselitz Remix, exh. cat., Munich, Pinakothek der Moderne, 2006-2007 (illustrated in colour, p. 43).
Georg Baselitz: Bildweg, exh. cat., Dresden, Galerie Gebr. Lehmann, 2008 (installation view in the artist's studio illustrated, pp. 32 and 34-35).
C. Hutter (ed.), Ein Porträt von Stadt und Land, Salzburg 2011 (illustrated, p. 34).
‘Die Heilige Macht der Sammler’, in Kunstforum International, 2011 (installation view illustrated in colour, p. 185).
Baselitz sculpteur, exh. cat., Paris, Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris, 2012 (illustrated, p. 27).
Group Exhibition, exh. cat., London, Gagosian Gallery, 2013 (illustrated, p. 121).
Georg Baselitz. Farewell Bill. Willem raucht nicht mehr, exh. cat., London, Gagosian Gallery, 2014, pp. 19-20, no. 22 (illustrated in colour, p. 21).
Exhibited
New York, Gagosian Gallery, Georg Baselitz Recent Sculpture, 2004, pp. 19-21 and 43 (installation view in the artist's studio illustrated, p. 3; illustrated in colour, p. 29; detail illustrated in colour, p. 28).
Klosterneuburg, Sammlung Essl - Kunst der Gegenwart, Figur/Skulptur, 2005-2006, pp. 36-37 (installation view illustrated in colour, pp. 2-3, 26-27, 28, 34 and 78; illustrated within the artist's studio in colour, p. 10; illustrated in colour, p. 40; detail illustrated, pp. 43 and 74).
Humlebaek, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Georg Baselitz: Painter, 2006, p. 94, no. 66.
London, Royal Academy of Arts, Georg Baselitz, 2007, p. 236, no. 152 (illustrated in colour, p. 234; detail illustrated in colour, p. 237).
Klosterneuburg, Essl Museum - Kunst der Gegenwart, Passion for Art: 35th Anniversary of the Essl Collection, vol. III, 2007, p. 543 (illustrated in colour, p. 415).
Salzburg, Museum der Moderne Salzburg, Georg Baselitz, Gemälde und Skulpturen 1960 – 2008, 2009, p. 140 (installation view illustrated in colour on the cover; illustrated in colour, p. 141).
Ettlingen, Kunstverein Wilhelmshöhe, 2009.
Baden-Baden, Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, Georg Baselitz . 30 Jahre Skulptur, 2009-2010, pp. 17, 22, 25, 30 and 44 (illustrated in colour, pp. 45 and 195; detail illustrated in colour, p. 194).
Klosterneuburg, Sammlung Essl - Kunst der Gegenwart, Schönes Klosterneuburg: Albert Oehlen Hängt Bilder der Sammlung Essl, 2010-2011, p. 108 (installation views illustrated in colour, on the cover and p. 20; detail illustrated in colour, p. 52 and 53).
Paris, Musée d'art moderne de la Ville de Paris, Georg Baselitz, Sculpteur, 2011-2012, p. 142 (installation view in the artist's studio illustrated in colour, on the cover; illustrated in colour, p. 143).
Humlebaek, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Self-Portrait, 2012-2013, p. 118, no. 4 (illustrated in colour, p. 119).
Klosterneuburg, Essl Museum - Kunst der Gegenwart, Georg Baselitz - Werke von 1968 bis 2012, 2013, pp. 28, 137 and 139 (illustrated in colour, p. 39; detail illustrated in colour, p. 38).
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.
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Lot Essay

‘This is my first sculpture, a bringing together of different pieces of wood and different elements of sculpture. Before that, I had made several attempts at sculptures, but had always failed because I tried to transpose to sculpture what I did in painting… Meine neue Mütze really was a new invention. Behind my back my hands are crossed and are holding a skull. The parallel sculpture – my wife – holds a Kelly bag with survival tools. The entire shaping could be called bottom heavy since the feet are extremely big’ (G. Baselitz in conversation with K. Essl, Georg Baselitz: Works from 1968-2012, exh cat., Kunst der Gegenwart, Essl Museum, 2013, pp. 28-29).

‘The thought processes I went through as I was preparing the work, concerning what a sculpture of mine should look like, ran along similar lines as when I was painting a picture: very abstract precepts – concave, convex, surface. But all my attempts were utter failures. But then I had very quickly realized that the tradition of sculpture is very short. And that, consequently, everything you do in sculpture becomes a thing. A thing like a ghost. You can’t avoid it. And that means they’re less coded than pictures, much more direct, much more legible…’ (G. Baselitz, quoted in D. Gretenkort (ed.), Georg Baselitz: Collected Writings and Interviews, London 2010, p. 194).

Towering above the viewer with hands clasped behind his back and feet solidly planted on the ground, Meine neue Mütze (My New Hat) by Georg Baselitz is a colossal self-portrait of the artist. The very first self-portrait sculpture he ever created, it marks a landmark moment in Baselitz’s career. He has subsequently made only one other single self-portrait, Volk Ding Zero (2009) resembling the Christus im Elend by Hans Leinberger, and a double portrait with his wife entitled Sing Song Zero (2011).

Proudly baring his naked torso the wooden figure in Meine neue Mütze sports blue shorts, large black boots and the artist’s white cap decorated with an anchor above its peak. The sculpture combines an almost childlike naiveté of gesture and expression with a profound awareness of transience. Around his right arm is a wrist watch, the time is five minutes to midnight. In his hands the artist clasps a skull – a poignant memento mori. These vanitas symbols show Baselitz in a period of introspection and recollection, for this was the moment the artist discovered he had been under close Stasi surveillance while an art student in East Berlin: ‘I now turned my attention to my family. I started painting my parents, my sister, my brothers – family pictures. It was an attempt to deal with history’ (G. Baselitz, quoted in R. Calvocoressi, ‘Head Over Heels’, Farewell Bill: Willem Raucht Nicht Mehr, exh. cat., London, Gagosian Gallery, 2014, p. 17). Baselitz created Meine neue Mütze (My New Hat) alongside a companion sculpture depicting his wife entitled Donna via Venezia. As the artist has explained, ‘this is my first sculpture, a bringing together of different pieces of wood and different elements of sculpture. Before that, I had made several attempts at sculptures, but had always failed because I tried to transpose to sculpture what I did in painting… Meine neue Mütze really was a new invention. Behind my back my hands are crossed and are holding a skull. The parallel sculpture – my wife – holds a Kelly bag with survival tools. The entire shaping could be called bottom-heavy since the feet are extremely big’ (G. Baselitz in conversation with K. Essl, in Georg Baselitz: Works from 1968-2012, exh cat., Kunst der Gegenwart, Essl Museum, 2013, pp. 28-29).

Executed in 2003, from a giant trunk of cedar wood, Meine neue Mütze embodies the power of the artist. Marshaling an axe and chainsaw, Baselitz has poured his energy and vitality into this sculpture. Exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts, London in 2007 and the Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris in 2011, the work also demonstrates the artist’s intimate bond with nature and especially the trees that recur so frequently in his paintings and engravings. Totem-like and raw in its rough handling of material and paint, Meine neue Mütze displays a radical new freedom of expression. Whereas the dramatic inversion of his painting style in 1969 gave him ‘the freedom to really confront painterly problems’, Baselitz saw his sculpture as offering ‘the shortest path’ to dealing with the fundamental issues of the human condition. As Rainer Michael Mason has described, ‘the physical effort required by the creation of a sculpture is the reason why Baselitz practices this non-speculative art only occasionally – art which engages him most directly in the real and gives voice to a sort of primitive energy outside any canon’ (R.M. Mason, ’Image and Painting’, Georg Baselitz: Painting and Sculpture 1960-2008, exh. cat., Museum der Moderne Salzburg, 2009, p. 46).

Baselitz’s first sculpture rendered from wood was created at the end of the 1970s. His famous Modell für eine Skulptur (1979) (Museum Ludwig Cologne), created for the Venice Biennale in 1980, features a reposing figure with his arm in a Nazi-style salute (a gesture the artist fervently denies was intentional). The artist saw this sculpture as a type of experiment, a ‘model’ or an ‘idea of sculpture’. It marked the beginning of a signature style: the crude cuts to wood, the categorical rejection of elegance, the rugged quality of the figures, the roughly painted highlights, and the ineluctable connection to personal or collective history. As the artist has described, ‘my first sculpture was made for a particular occasion, the Venice Biennale in 1980. The three previous exhibitions in the German pavilion had included sculpture. And that was what prompted me to make my first sculpture. The thought processes I went through as I was preparing the work, concerning what a sculpture of mine should look like, ran along similar lines as when I was painting a picture: very abstract precepts – concave, convex, surface. But all my attempts were utter failures. But then I had very quickly realized that the tradition of sculpture is very short. And that, consequently, everything you do in sculpture becomes a thing. A thing like a ghost. You can’t avoid it. And that means they’re less coded than pictures, much more direct, much more legible…’ (G. Baselitz, quoted in D. Gretenkort (ed.), Georg Baselitz: Collected Writings and Interviews, London 2010, p. 194).

Following his presentation in Venice, Baselitz turned to standing figures with outstretched or crossed arms and bodies rendered in a primitive, immediate style; most of these figures dating from the early 1980s are now in museum collections including Tate Modern, London; Kunstmuseum Basel, Städtische Galerie Karlsruhe, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh and Kunsthaus Zürich. In 1989-1990, Baselitz began a series entitled the Women of Dresden, remembering the end of the Second World War and the victims of the destruction of the city of Dresden in February 1945. These monumental heads with their violent cuts, vivid painted colours, roughly cast eyes and scars running in deep cracks and crevices across their wooden surfaces, saw Baselitz recount a traumatic chapter in German history. These sculptures are also now largely held within public institutions including Museum Würth, Künzelsau; Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden; Museum Frieder Burda, Baden- Baden; Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek and Stockholm Konsthall. These were followed in the late nineties by disembodied torsos and heads adorned with burning red such as the Ding mit Arm (Thing with Arm) (1993) in the collection of Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg.

These works sought to explore a new vernacular in sculpture away from the traditions of beauty in Western classical sculpture. A great admirer of de Kooning’s paintings, Baselitz was particularly impressed by the American’s radical approach to working with bronze. De Kooning’s first figurines were modeled from clay with the artist’s eyes shut, his hands modulating the surface to evoke the feeling rather than the appearance of the body. He was so pleased with the outcome that he created life-size figures such as Clam Digger (1972). According to his biographers de Kooning ‘approached the project with an open-ended feeling of freedom… He did not feel, while working as a sculptor, oppressed by history or know-how or fashion. ‘I wasn’t obliged even to myself’, de Kooning said. ‘I mean I never studied modeling or anything’ (M. Stevens and A. Swan, de Kooning: An American Master, London 2006, p. 527). As Richard Calvocoressi has pointed out, these sentiments had a profound resonance with Baselitz. In 1983 during an intense moment of his own sculptural activity, Baselitz spoke of his admiration for de Kooning’s sculpture: ‘I think de Kooning is a very good painter, and I find his sculptures very strange, visually perplexing, because they don’t correspond to the form of sculpture that we know. They don’t respect the principles of sculpture. They have no muscles, no skeletons, no skin. They only have a surface without content… His paintings are magnificent. They satisfy all the criteria of painting. His sculptures, on the other hand, don’t satisfy any of the criteria of sculpture. But they are fantastic, very different, highly surprising’ (G. Baselitz, in conversation with J.L Froment and J.M. Poinsot, in D. Gretenkort (ed.), Georg Baselitz: Collected Writings and Interviews, London 2010, p. 196, reproduced in R. Calvocoressi, ‘Head Over Heels’, Farewell Bill: Willem raucht nicht mehr, exh. cat., London, Gagosian Gallery, 2014, p. 17).

For his own part, Baselitz found himself deeply influenced by his personal collection of African Bateke tribal art, amazed by their status as local deities and their claims to magical powers. As the artist has explained, ‘I use an axe or a saw and only make direct wood sculptures that you can’t add anything to, like working with stone. But despite this, that effect when the thing is there, the feeling that I’ve dug it out, that stays. And it’s very strange because – quite apart from that – I collect sculptures, sculptures by Africans. There you see the same phenomenon. They also make sculptures that are things, not people, not even scaleddown people’ (G. Baselitz, quoted in D. Gretenkort (ed.), Georg Baselitz: Collected Writings and Interviews, London 2010, p. 195). The artist has often pointed to the long legacy of African cultures in Western art history: ‘You can see the source of the influences on contemporary art in ethnological museums in Paris and Berlin. For Kirchner and Rottluff, it was Cameroon, for Picasso, Gabon. Formal elements and signals are adopted as they are – signals that come with the label ‘primitive’. But in terms of quality, these sculptures have the sophistication of European pieces, and have become emblems here. Important sculptors to me are Marini and Giacometti, but also Picasso and Matisse. I am an admirer of theirs. But I can’t use them as a new beginning’ (G. Baselitz, quoted in D. Gretenkort (ed.), Georg Baselitz: Collected Writings and Interviews, London 2010, p. 196).

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