Birthday bash for Baselitz as he turns 80

Simultaneous exhibitions dedicated to German artist open in Basel

Georg Baselitz, Die Grosse Nacht im Eimer (1962-63) Georg Baselitz, 2018; photo by Jochen Littkemann, Berlin

A retrospective of the work of Georg Baselitz opens at the Fondation Beyeler in Basel on 21 January, two days before the German artist turns 80.

The show unites 80 paintings and 10 sculptures made between 1959 and 2017, plus upside-down images from the 1970s and 80s, as well as works that were scandalous in their time. Among these are Die Grosse Nacht im Eimer (Big Night Down the Drain), which depicts a man masturbating. It was seized from a West Berlin gallery by the public prosecutor in 1963. Also on show is Baselitz’s first painted wooden sculpture—a figure that appears to be posed in a Nazi salute—which caused outrage at the Venice Biennale in 1980.

The size of Baselitz’s output made selection difficult, says the curator Martin Schwander. “Baselitz was the star painter of the 1980s, but we aim to show the importance of his work before and after, too,” he says. “Some of the new works are quite shocking—they deal with ageing, fragility and physical degradation very honestly.”

The exhibition—which will travel to the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC, in June—marks the first time that the Fondation Beyeler has cooperated on a show with the Kunstmuseum Basel. It will simultaneously exhibit 100 drawings and works on paper by Baselitz, where familiar motifs such as eagles, heroes and self-portraits crop up in constantly changing forms. In March, Baselitz’s hometown of Dresden will devote an exhibition to the influence of Mannerism on the artist’s work.

The Fondation Beyeler exhibition is supported by Hansjörg Wyss and Herbert Batliner, among others.

• Georg Baselitz at Fondation Beyeler and Georg Baselitz: Works on Paper at Kunstmuseum Basel, both 21 January-29 April

Appeared in The Art Newspaper, 297 January 2018