To mark the eightieth birthday of Georg Baselitz (born in 1938 in Saxony), the Fondation Beyeler is presenting an extensive selection of his work as
a painter, sculptor, and printmaker, organized with the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington DC, where it will be shown subsequently in a modified form.
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<span class="title">GEORG <br /> BASELITZ</span><br>
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Director of the Musée d’art moderne<br> de la Ville de Paris
<span class="alinea"></span> From 1980 to today, Georg Baselitz has made relatively few sculptures—about sixty. They are each the embodiment of an important experience: by working in three dimensions, he is able to pursue
artistic quandaries raised in his painting, but that he cannot resolve through painting alone. Perhaps that also explains why Baselitz can be reluctant to make them.
<span class="alinea"></span> More than his paintings, Baselitz’s sculptures are highly personal, making a number of autobiographical references. <i>Meine neue Mütze</i> [My New Cap] is one of his
most important works, definitely a major work among the monumental sculptures he began making twenty years ago. Though monumental, they are not
authoritarian, as they each represent formal or interpretative contradictions. They reference African sculpture and its approach to space, as well as to folkloric
objects, figurines, small sculptures found in ancient villages in Poland. References proliferate like cells.
<span class="alinea"></span> Baselitz is the most learned artist I know. His young boy stands, shirtless, peering out from under his new white hat, with a beaming smile on his face. What is he
thinking? Is he proud or embarrassed by his new headgear? As is often the case with Baselitz’s works, this figure is more difficult to interpret than he may first
appear. Why does he hold a skull behind his back? Where did he get the watch he’s wearing—did he buy it from Russian soldiers? What does the fact that he is wearing a watch mean?
It’s either five to noon, or five to midnight. Why? Why is he wearing such heavy shoes, such baggy shorts? Why is he topless?
<span class="alinea"></span> Baselitz’s most intense childhood memories all took place during those onerous years that spanned the end of the Second World War and
the brutal downfall of Hitler’s regime to denazification and the emergence of a new world order, ruled by new masters, that no one in Dresden or its environs,
including Baselitz’s hometown of Deutschbaselitz, would have expected to see. The new hat isn’t so much a symbol
of this change as it is a symbol of the people’s determination to continue with their lives through these momentous transitions with simply a new change of
clothes. His overlarge shorts, used hand-me-downs from someone who’d outgrown them, represent a childhood of deprivation; his missing shirt, the absence
of points of reference. The hidden skull represents death, which people refuse to show and to see. The colors could suggest a certain optimism in their deliberately angelic
contrast of pink and blue, paired with the crude, falsely naïve carved wood. The work seems unfinished, in transition toward a future state. Here, imagination works together with memory.
<span class="alinea"></span> Baselitz may be known first and foremost as a painter, but his sculptural practice is significant in itself. It represents those things that haunt Baselitz as an adult.
The stature of this child—almost twice as tall as a human adult—reminds us that the inner child, looking from afar at the present, looms larger than adulthood.