'[Kippenberger] did not limit his finger-wagging to the world around him, but also poked fun at himself while still treating his work with dignity and seriousness' (G. Lowry, Audio Excerpt, Contemporary Galleries: 1980-Now, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2011).
Previously exhibited at the Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna and the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven in 2003-2004, Untitled expertly recreates in two dimensions the iconic sculpture Martin, Into the Corner, You Should be Ashamed of Yourself one of which is held in the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Realised in coloured pencil on hotel stationary, the work is a self-portrait of the artist, seen with hands clasped behind his back, standing in the corner like a scolded schoolboy. Flushed as if in embarrassment, the pate of his head and intertwined palms are rendered in a bright vermillion orange. The simple clothes: plain cotton shirt, blue trouser slacks and crossed braces are all rendered in rapid lines that demonstrate the artist's skilled draftsmanship.
The drawing is firmly tongue in cheek, imbued with the artist's caustic wit. It offers a mockapologetic gesture and backhanded repost to the vicious German art critic who published an article in a German magazine with the title, 'The Artist as Exemplary Alcoholic'. The article accused Kippenberger of various sins and misdemeanors, including sexism, racism and pro-Nazism. At the same time the artist, an inveterate prankster, acutely aware of his shortcomings cracks a joke at his own expense. As Glenn Lowry has noted, '[Kippenberger] did not limit his finger-wagging to the world around him, but also poked fun at himself while still treating his work with dignity and seriousness' (G. Lowry, Audio Excerpt, Contemporary Galleries: 1980-Now, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2011). In Untitled, Kippenberger also goes beyond his own experience and the specific resonance of this anecdote to make a wider comment on the artist within society. As Ann Temkin has noted, depicting the artist as isolated and alone in the corner of a room, Kippenberger was 'deftly setting into a contemporary vernacular the Romantic identification of the artist as outcast, whether genius, prophet, beggar, or madman' (G. Lowry, The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York, 2007, p. 89).
Executed on hotel stationary, Untitled also relates to the suite of drawings that Kippenberger created from the late 1980s onwards referred to as the Hotel drawings. Originally undertaken as ad hoc preparatory diagrams for the three-dimensional Peter sculptures, Kippenberger later used the myriad letterheads of innumerable hotels to capture other subjects and inspirations. From the works on hotel paper, one might mistake the artist for a global nomad, trotting around the world like a luminary. In fact, the truth was far from this. In Untitled, the paper belongs to the Hotel Washington in Washington D.C., yet it remains unclear whether Kippenberger actually ever stayed there. Instead, it is a reflection on the artist's own itinerant and eccentric sensibility.