‘Artists have helped God create the world’
– Markus Lüpertz
To German painter and sculptor Markus Lüpertz (b. 1941), it is blindingly obvious that art far transcends everyday life. Wherever possible he proclaims this view, which stands in stark contrast to the contemporary discourse, in which art has to compete with vulgar entertainment and lifestyle. In the media, he underlines his message with his impeccable and self-assured performance as the ‘Painter Prince’. The superiority of art to everyday life is likewise expressed in various ways in the architecture of the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag. This similarity is the point of departure for the forthcoming major retrospective of Lüperz’s work. The exhibition will be arranged thematically rather than chronologically and will focus not only on recent work and the highlights of the artist’s oeuvre, but also on the brilliant personality of Lüpertz himself.
Born in Reichenberg, painter and sculptor Markus Lüpertz stands on a par with Penck, Immendorff and Baselitz as part of the generation of post-war artists who breathed new life into German Expressionism. His work is characterised by enormous versatility and a constant search to strike the right balance between abstraction and figuration, and between form and colour. As a painter, his favourite genre is the landscape, while in his sculpture the key focus is on the human figure.
Markus Lüpertz has been a star of the contemporary German art world for many years. Last year, for example, he produced an eighteen-metre Hercules to commemorate the Ruhr 2010 European Capital of Culture event. The colossal sculpture has towered over the City of Essen since last December and the preparatory material for it will be a major feature of this retrospective. A smaller version of the work will stand at the entrance to the exhibition.
The show will start with the theme of the artist’s quest in the early 1960s to find an individual visual idiom somewhere between abstraction and naturalism. Astonishingly enough, he drew his initial inspiration from the art of COBRA and produced a series of Donald Duck paintings in a similar style. (Exhibited here, this series has never been seen before in the Netherlands). However, Lüpertz quickly arrived at his dithyrambic paintings, in which he discovered his own personal style. The word ‘dithyrambic’ refers to the ‘dithyramb’: in classical antiquity, a type of lyric poem in praise of Dionysus, the god of ecstasy, wine, intoxication and chaos.
A gallery on the theme of the tree trunk will feature Baumstammm-dithyrambisch, a work purchased by the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag in 2006 with the assistance of the BankGiro Lottery. Other themes addressed in the exhibition will include Lüpertz’s explicit references to art history and literature (for example, to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.
In Germany, Markus Lüpertz is a well-known media personality. A real aristocrat of the art world, his image recalls the artists of the late nineteenth century with their attitude of superiority to ordinary bourgeois society. This exhibition of Lüpertz’s ‘art with a capital A’ will coincide with the Gemeentemuseum’s Anonymous Selection summer show, open to amateur and professional artists alike – a fascinating contrast if ever there was one!
The exhibition is sponsored by RWE, the German energy company that has taken over Essent. In the past, there was cooperation between Essent and the GEM in relation to the Catch of the Day exhibition, featuring Dutch artist David Bade. The partnership with RWE offers the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag the opportunity, in line with its new policy, to attract new categories of visitors from outside the Netherlands