Martin Kippenberger

Date/place of birth

February 25, 1953, Dortmund

Day/place of death

March 7, 1997, Vienna, Austria

Martin Kippenberger - Ohne Titel (Selbstporträt)
Martin Kippenberger - Ohne Titel (Selbstporträt)

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Martin Kippenberger biography

Martin Kippenberger held either a cigarette or a brush in his hand, sometimes both. The artist could never be stopped, he was always painting, arranging, forming, or photographing. Sometimes he caught hold of an idea, sometimes it caught him – and when, for once, he didn’t have an idea, he fled into company, talked, joked, drank, did anything so that he did not have to relax.

Martin Kippenberger – A career with corners and edges

Martin Kippenberger was born in Dortmund on 25 February 1953. He had two older and two younger sisters, once of whom was the journalist Susanne Kippenberger, his father managed a colliery, and his mother worked as a dermatologist. Martin dropped out of school in 1968 and tried his hand as a decorator, but the apprenticeship failed prematurely due to his drug use. He attended the School for Fine Arts in Hamburg from 1972 to 1976, where his teachers included Franz Erhard Walther, Rudolf Hausner and Claus Böhmler. Following this, he travelled to Florence which inspired his picture series Uno di voi, un tedesco en Firenze. His friendship with Markus and Albert Oehlen as well as Werner Büttner finally drew him back to Berlin where he founded the exhibition project Kippenbergers Büro with Gisela Capitain.

Order was not of importance to Martin Kippenberger

When Martin Kippenberger encountered orderly conditions and clear structures, he took great pleasure in disarranging them to the best of his ability. He was suspicious of the clean and tidy art of many famous artists such as Jeff Koons or Donald Judd, preferred creative disorder, allowed the critics and audience to draw incorrect conclusions. His work reflected this attitude: as a ‘Neue Wilde’ (young wild) artist, he relied to a large extent on mockery, provocation, and irony, sometimes going to considerable lengths to achieve this such as with Metro-Net where a number of fake underground entrances consisting of stairs, ventilation shafts and simulated travelling sounds were created. The project was continued after Kippenberger’s death – a not uncontroversial decision which was interpreted as a falsification by some critics. Martin Kippenberger’s work Zuerst die Füße, a sculpture of a crucified frog, provoked the politician Franz Prahl to undertake a hunger strike and the artist was even reprimanded by Pope Benedict XVI, even though Kippenberger stood by his opinion that the work was one of ironic self-reflection without any religious reference. 

A lonely artist who did not want to be alone

Martin Kippenberger needed and feared loneliness in equal measures. He wanted to be alone in his studio, needed the solitude for his development, but outside of his inspired working hours, he did everything he could to escape, organising his life so that he was always swimming in the flow of society – often at the expense of his friends and acquaintances whom he sometimes required to be at his disposal day and night; he called this ‘artist support’. There was nothing he feared more than being alone again after a night of partying, to have to go home in the sudden booming loneliness. Only the next creative thought, the igniting spark of inspiration, freed him from this hated feeling. He found the quiet Sunday to be a tortuous reflection of his personality, the sight of which he could hardly bear. 

Martin Kippenberger died of liver cancer on 7 March 1997 in Vienna.

© Kunsthaus Lempertz

Martin Kippenberger Prices

Martin KippenbergerOhne Titel (Selbstporträt)€85.680
Martin KippenbergerMädchen verwechselten Pattex mit ihrer Pille€83.300
Martin KippenbergerPlakate€73.780
Martin KippenbergerÄTZ€73.780
Martin KippenbergerBEDIRFNISSEE (Krieg böse)€69.020
Martin KippenbergerExercismus von überfälliger Laune€61.880

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