The Bundeskunsthalle in Bonn presents an exhibition of paintings by Martin Kippenberger (born in 1953 in Dortmund, died in 1997 in Vienna), to which the Pinault Collection is contributing the loan of two works. Fabrice Hergott, the co-curator of Kippenberger’s 1993 retrospective at the Centre Pompidou, recounts the story of that collaboration.


Bundeskunsthalle /
Bonn



Martin Kippenberger
<a class="switch">Text</a><br> <b>Fabrice Hergott</b><br> <span style="display: none;"> Director of the <br/> Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris </span>





<span class="alinea"></span>In the spring of 1993, as Martin Kippenberger was preparing his exhibition “Candidacy for a Retrospective” in the contemporary wing of the Centre Georges Pompidou, he arrived at the museum one late morning to hang his show. In his hand was his copy of the daily <i>Bild-Zeitung</i> newspaper, which he had been reading on the terrace of a café on the rue Beaubourg. Popular and sensationalist, this newspaper did not correspond in any way to Kippenberger’s image as an underground artist, to his uneasy, languid elegance, but it effectively communicated his program: to destabilize institutional art, to never be where we might expect him to be. <br/> <br/> <span class="alinea"></span>He and Roberto Ohrt, the co-curator of the exhibition, had conceived this “Candidacy” as a mini-retrospective full of irony, even poking fun, along the way, at the small space that the Centre Pompidou had granted to it. The museum had very generously invited artists and friends to show their favorite works or objects alongside Kippenberger’s, in a kind of cabinet-of-curiosity confusion of crowded display cases. While many of Kippenberger’s works were included, it wasn’t so easy to know which where those he had created himself, which he had commissioned, and which he had simply appropriated. <br/> <br/> <span class="alinea"></span>The most imposing work included, belonging to those last two categories, was undoubtedly the large painting <i>Paris Bar</i>, a depiction, based on a photograph, of the inside of the famous Kantstraße restaurant, located in one of the most lively districts in the center of former West Berlin. Produced by a film poster painter, from whom Kippenberger also commissioned the series “Dear painter, paint me” in 1981, the painting depicted the large room to the left of the bar’s entrance, with its chairs, cloth-covered tables with place settings, and its red leather banquette. On the room’s back wall, above the banquette, is another large painting by the same artist, also depicting the interior of the Paris Bar, closely surrounded by two rows of various paintings and photographs by different authors. A perfect meta reflection, all the more so as the works depicted even seem to include older works by Kippenberger himself. Paris Bar reflects Kippenberger’s superior ability to disorientate his interlocutors and to load his work with autobiographical references. <br/> <br/> <span class="alinea"></span>The Paris Bar was a mythical restaurant in Berlin, opened after the war by a French officer. Its management was taken over at the very beginning of the 1980s by the Vienna-born Michael Würthle, an artist of life, who in the early 1970s had opened the restaurant L’Exil, where an international crowd of the most vibrant and creative residents of West Berlin would meet. It was at this time that Kippenberger and Würthle met and became fast friends at first sight. Würthle was one of Kippenberger’s first collectors. He covered the walls of his Paris Bar with works that artists gave him in exchange for meals and drinks; but of all these artists, the one closest to him was Kippenberger. The Paris Bar, with its typical bohemian and chic décor of a restaurant for artists, presented itself as a museum whose program Kippenberger helped define. It was on the Greek island of Syros, where Würthle often resided, that Kippenberger invented the Momas, an ephemeral and disconcerting plagiarism of a museum of modern art, housing minimal and temporary interventions by a small group of friends, whose memory survives in only a few photographs from the time. <br/> <br/> <span class="alinea"></span>The painting Paris Bar is an escape toward the infinity of his artistic program. Presented in the estaurant-museum, it was a museum-painting; and hung in the museum, it is the meta-view of the museum from the restaurant space. Both appear as fictions. Where is the place of art and where has the author gone? We are here in line with the wish of anonymity and plagiarism of a Lautréamont (recalled by Francis Ponge<sup>1</sup>), according to which poetry must not be made by one but by all. Art, as a result of the impact of the readymade, can potentially be found everywhere—in restaurants, on the façade of cinemas, and even in museums, which have become, through the critical strength of Kippenberger’s work, the peripheral places <i>par excellence</i> of an art whose reality and survival are questioned here<sup>2</sup>. <br/> <br/> <span class="alinea"></span>The other painting from the Pinault Collection, <i>Untitled</i>, from the series “Lieber Maler, Male Mir,” painted ten years earlier, shows the backs of two hesitant, perhaps staggering friends, holding one another, at the entrance of a “Kneipe,” those distinctive bistros found in German city centers. The contrast in their builds evokes Laurel and Hardy, two figures who have always appeared to bridge cinema and real life, as if fiction, in their cases, was less artificial than for other important figures in the history of cinema. <br/> <br/> <span class="alinea"></span>The day before the opening of the exhibition at the Centre Pompidou, Martin Kippenberger and Roberto Ohrt decided that we would have dinner in a trendy restaurant to celebrate the event. After difficult negotiations, we finally got a table. Barely five minutes later, our waiter returned to ask if we might leave to make way for a small group. As we turned around, we saw that Johnny Hallyday was standing at the center of this group. I tried to protest, but Kippenberger immediately stood up, delighted and flattered to give up his place to such a popular artist. That things could be so opaquely banal seemed like a promise to him. <br/> <br/> <div class="notes"> 1 — <i>Entretiens de Francis Ponge avec Philippe Sollers</i> (Paris : éditions Gallimard / éditions du Seuil, Paris 1970, p. 123). <br/> 2 — “As is always the case with Kippenberger, the truth isn’t here but rather there, on the periphery.” Michel Gautier, <i>Upside down and turning me, Martin Kippenberger et l’antistase</i>. Cahiers du Musée national d’art moderne, (Paris: n° 134 winter 2015/2016). </div>
<i>Paris Bar</i>, 1993 <br/> Oil on canvas <br/> 259 × 360 × 4 cm
<i>Untitled</i>, 19893 <br/> from the series « Lieber Maler, Male Mir » <br/> Oil on canvas <br/> 200 × 130 cm
 

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