Artist, actor and maverick director Christoph Schlingensief dies aged 49

The enfant terrible of German stage and cinema, who was set to represent his country at the Venice Biennale, succumbed to lung cancer after a two year battle

Christoph Schlingensief

Christoph Schlingensief, who was due to represent Germany at next year's Venice Biennale, died 21 August, aged 49. The artist, actor and maverick film and stage director had been suffering from lung cancer for over two years.

Susanne Gaensheimer, the director of Frankfurt’s Museum for Modern Art (MMK) and curator of the German pavilion, released a statement expressing her shock at the news, adding that Schlingensief had already developed many ideas for Venice. A spokesman for MMK could not confirm whether Schlingensief had prepared a concept for the pavilion that could be carried out by someone else in the event of his death.

Gaensheimer drew criticism for choosing Schlingensief to represent Germany at the Venice Biennale. Fellow German artists Gerhard Richter and Georg Baselitz complained about the decision, with Baselitz quipping in an interview that perhaps TV cooks should be invited, because they also guarantee attention and plenty of visitors.

Born in 1960 in Oberhausen, Schlingensief studied philosophy and history of art before getting heavily into film. He gained notoriety for films such as "The German Chainsaw Massacre", 1990, which dealt with the reunification of Germany in a humorous way and "100 Years of Adolf Hitler", 1989, a spoof on the demise of the Nazi leader.

Schlingensief also worked in opera and theatre, where he is said to have realised Joseph Beuys' idea of “social sculpture”, in which society becomes art. Schlingensief often invited handicapped people as well as those living on social welfare to work with him. For one well-known project, Schlingensief attempted to flood the summerhouse of Helmut Kohl, than chancellor of Germany, by inviting six million unemployed people to jump in the lake in front of Kohl’s home in Austria.

Often politically motivated and not afraid to broach the most sensitive of topics, Schlingensief came to be known as the enfant terrible of German stage and cinema.

More from The Art Newspaper


Submit a comment

All comments are moderated. If you would like your comment to be approved, please use your real name, not a pseudonym. We ask for your email address in case we wish to contact you - it will not be made public and we do not use it for any other purpose.


Want to write a longer comment to this article? Email


Share this