In Memoriam: “No artist influenced others more than Sigmar Polke”
His gallery remembers the German artist who died last week
By Georgina Adam. From Art Basel daily edition
Published online: 15 June 2010
Speaking at Art Basel yesterday, Gordon VeneKlasen of Sigmar Polke’s longtime gallery Michael Werner (B5), paid a personal tribute to the artist, who died last week in Cologne.
Polke was born in 1941 in the former German region of Lower Silesia (now part of Poland); his family fled to Thuringia in 1945 and afterward to West Germany. He worked as an apprentice in a stained glass factory in Düsseldorf before entering the Arts Academy under Joseph Beuys. In 1963 he founded the capitalistic realism movement with Gerhard Richter and Konrad Fischer: but he constantly innovated, experimenting with innovative materials, turning his hand by periods to prints and sculpture, satirising American pop art as well as making photographs, drawings and paintings.
“No artist has influenced other artists more than Polke,” said VeneKlasen. “And people have yet to appreciate fully how extraordinarily vast his practice was. He worked across so many fields, from photography, sculpture, painting, film…there was nothing he hadn’t done. He was always moving forward, making every exhibition fresh and new. In addition he was incredibly learned, and had an amazing library with everything from art history volumes to books about Mesoamerican Indians, studies of geography and geology—everything fascinated him.”
Polke had his first show with the Werner gallery in 1970, when he was still living in Düsseldorf. He remained faithful to the gallery and for the last 20 years worked virtually exclusively with it. “We had a very close relationship,” said VeneKen.
“Polke was unusual in that he had no assistants, so I functioned a bit as his personal assistant; he was quite reclusive and it was quite difficult to gain access to his studio. But he was a delightful man, with great humour, great generosity but also great precision.”
His impact on younger artists was enormous, said VeneKlasen, “He had a direct influence on the generation of Kippenberger and Oehlen; Peter Doig refers to him all the time, saying, ‘I never look at Richter; I only look at Polke.’” Polke’s works are in museums worldwide, including MoMA, Tate Modern, the Zurich Kunsthaus, the Reina Sofía and the Osaka Museum of Modern Art; while the Dallas collector Howard Rachofsky has major holdings.
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