Stephan Balkenhol – one of the most important German sculptors
Stephan Balkenhol has already been described as one of the “most important German sculptors” and “one of the most high-profile representatives of contemporary sculpture” in articles in several renowned newspapers and magazines. Lempertz have already sold a number of works by this artist:
- Stephan Balkenhol - Die große Parade
- Stephan Balkenhol - Untitled (Mann mit roter Hose)
- Stephan Balkenhol - Großes Kopfrelief: Mann
The German artist was born and grew up in Fritzlar in Hesse, but also spent part of his formative years in Luxembourg and in Kassel, home of the famous documenta exhibition series. Stephan Balkenhol was the youngest of four sons, his mother was a housewife and his father a grammar school teacher. He attended the school where his father taught – the Europäische Schule in Luxembourg – and there attained the “Abitur”.
Stephan Balkenhol‘s studies at the Hochschule in Hamburg
He studied at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste (College of Fine Arts) in Hamburg from 1976 – 1982 under Ulrich Rückriem and began to work more often in wood towards the end of his time there. In contrast to the minimalist formal vocabulary of his teacher, Balkenhol was more drawn towards figures and organic forms. In 1983 he received the renowned Karl-Schmidt-Rottluff stipend for exceptional artistic achievement, a prize established by the artist himself in 1975.
Shortly after, he was also awarded with the Hamburg working stipend (Arbeitsstipendium der Freien und Hansestadt Hamburg). Just six years after completing his studies at Hamburg College, Balkenhol was offered a teaching post there which he held from 1988 – 1989. After this he went to teach at the Frankfurt Städelschule until 1991.
International Fame through an Instinct for Fitting Situations
Stephan Balkenhol rose to fame whilst teaching. His contribution to the “Skulpturen Projekte Münster” exhibition in 1987 achieved international notoriety. Balkenhol placed his “Man with green Shirt and white Trousers” (Mann mit grünem Hemd und weißer Hose) on the edge of a wall. The sculpture was so lifelike that several people called the police, believing that the “man” was planning to jump. A similar situation arose when Balkenhol placed a sculpture on a plinth in the Thames as part of the “Double Take” exhibition in London in 1992. Once again, many concerned passers-by informed the police, suspecting a suicide, and some brave individuals even jumped into the river to help.
Numerous Exhibitions and Honours for Balkenhol
Stephan Balkenhol was awarded the art prize “Internationaler Förderpreis des Landes Baden-Württemberg” in 1989. In the same year he was honoured with the “Kunstpreis der Böttcherstraße in Bremen”, for which nine other artists were nominated. In the following years, the prize was awarded to artists such as Martin Honert, Thomas Lehnerer, and Ólafur Elíasson.
Throughout the 1980s, his works featured in numerous exhibitions of important museums, including:
- Portikus, Frankfurt/Main (1988)
- Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam (1992)
- Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin (1994)
- Arts Club of Chicago, Chicago (1998)
- Sprengel Museum, Hannover (2003)
- Galleri Bo Bjerggaard, Copenhagen (2006)
- Galleria Valentina Bonomo - Arte Contemporanea, Rome (2008)
- Dogenhaus Galerie, Leipzig (2009)
- Deichtorhallen, Hamburg (2009).
He also realised numerous public art projects, the most famous of which are:
- “Vier Männer auf Bojen“ (1993) on the Elbe and Alster in Hamburg,
- ”Vier-Figuren-Gruppe“ (2005) in the atrium of the University of California, San Francisco
- “Rembrandt als junger Mann“ (2006), at the house of Rembrandt’s birth in Leiden.
Wood as Balkenhol’s trademark
Wood is the material that defines Balkenhol’s work. It is wood from which he fashions his figures with roughly hewn strokes of hammer and chisel, leaving the artistic process visible within the structure of the material, where it becomes a characteristic manner of expression. The artist has mainly concentrated on the depiction of human figures since 1982. Since then his unique stylistic vocabulary, combining traditional sculptural elements with new aesthetic positions has continually provided new impulses for contemporary art.
Stephan Balkenhol has taught at the Fine Arts Academy in Karlsruhe since 1992 and lives in Karlsruhe and Meisenthal in Lorraine.