Deichtorhallen Welcomes Four Giants of German Contemporary Art

August 24, 2019

The aftermath of WW II reasonably affected the generation of German artists which emerged in the 1960s. The abstraction dominated the international art scene the previous decade due to fundamental disbelief in humanity, however, the young artists formed a new painterly approach by blurring the line between the figuration and abstraction.

Four artists of different aesthetics stood out during the mentioned period and they paved the way for later generations to come. Gerhard Richter, Georg Baselitz, Sigmar Polke, and Anselm Kiefer developed their practices under the shadow of the former atrocities and the shifting politics embodied with the erection of Berlin Wall in 1961, managing to progress artistically and successfully maintain the continuity.

One of the most distinguished German institutions specialized in contemporary art and photography, Deichtorhallen decided to organize an exciting survey of the early works made by these legendary artists and therefore retrace their domains in the present moment.

Sigmar Polke - Ohne Titel
Sigmar Polke - Ohne Titel (Doppelportrait) (Untitled (Double Portrait)), 1963/64. Lacquer on canvas, 128 x 194 cm. Private collection © The Estate of Sigmar Polke, Cologne / VG Picture Art, Bonn 2019

The Post War Rebels

The common denominator for all four artists is the specific kind of struggle with the abstraction; they devotedly experimented in an attempt to articulate not only their inner process but the socio-political context of post-war Germany.

Although their practices can be perceived in regards to the legacy of the European version of Abstract  Expressionism known as Informel, each artist released a particular pictorial style and paved a way for what is to become the leading art trend during the late 1970s and 1980s - Neo-expressionism. The German response to the international tendency was called Neu Wilde.

Anselm Kiefer - Heroisches Sinnbild I
Anselm Kiefer - Heroisches Sinnbild I (Heroic Symbol I), 1969 – 1970. Oil, charcoal on canvas, 260.5 x 150 cm. Collection Würth © Atelier Anselm Kiefer

The Works

The installment will gather almost one hundred works made by the artists during their formative years - Georg Baselitz’s ten year period between 1959 and 1969, Gerhard Richter’s works made in between 1962 and 1969, Sigmar Polke’s period between 1963 and 1969, and Anselm Kiefer’s period between 1969 and 1977.

Except for Sigmar Polke who passed away in 2010, all three artists will support this exhibition by providing the works from their collections and engaging in interviews and public discussions concerning their practices and their legacy.

Left Georg Baselitz - Vorwarts Wind Right Anselm Kiefer - Glaube Hoffnung Liebe
Left: Georg Baselitz - Vorwärts Wind (Forward Wind), 1966. Oil on canvas, 162 x 130 cm. Collection Ströher, Photo: Friedrich Rosenstiel, Cologne. © Georg Baselitz 2019 / Right: Anselm Kiefer - Glaube, Hoffnung, Liebe (Faith, Hope, Love), 1973. Coal, collage, rabbit's blood on plucking, 298.5 x 281 cm. Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, acquired with Lotto funds in 1982 © Atelier Anselm Kiefer

The German Masters at Deichtorhallen

The upcoming exhibition will provide not only a good insight in the practices of these legendary artists but will coincide with the 30th anniversary of Deichtorhallen and the German unity established after the break of Berlin wall in 1989.

A fully illustrated catalog titled the same as the exhibition, written by the curator Götz Adriani, and edited by the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, the exhibition co-organizer, will be also presented. It will consist of interviews with the artists concerning their early work, numerous illustrations and in-depth documentation of the 1960s. Here is important to mention that Adriani was the artists' contemporary and their friend which makes him the best possible person to interpret their oeuvres.

Baselitz, Richter, Polke, Kiefer: The Early Years of The Old Masters will be on view at Deichtorhallen in Hamburg from September 13th, 2019 until January 5th, 2020.


Featured image: Gerhard Richter - Krankenschwestern, 1965. Oil on canvas, 48 x 60 cm. Art Museums Krefeld © Gerhard Richter 2019. All images courtesy Deichtorhallen.

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