This poster was produced for German artist Martin Kippenberger’s ‘Anti-Apartheid Drinking Congress’ following the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh in August 1986, at a time when international opposition to apartheid in South Africa was growing. Thirty-two of the fifty-nine Commonwealth countries boycotted the sporting competition in reaction to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s apparently ambivalent attitude towards apartheid. Although Kippenberger singled out his ‘Congress’ as his ‘first and only political act’ (quoted in Goldstein 2008, p.350), the reference to his infamous heavy drinking and the poster’s gaudy use of tartan served to undermine the political sincerity of the event.
Though prolific as a painter, sculptor, musician and writer, the 178 posters created by Kippenberger throughout his career form a significant body of work. Normally created as screen prints or lithographs in standard advertisement sizes, they were used to promote a wide variety of events from art exhibitions to upcoming parties. From 1986 Kippenberger began to group his posters into folios, though these were united more by date than by similarity of style or function. This work forms part of the second folio, Untitled Maniac. Published in 1987 in an edition of twenty-five, each folio contained twenty-one posters made between 1986 and 1987.
Kippenberger’s posters belong to the mass of apparently supplementary material produced by the artist throughout his career that parallels his work in painting, sculpture, installation and performance. However, like his books, pamphlets and literary and musical projects, the posters share with his more conventional artworks the desire to undermine the accepted structures of the art world by defying attempts to understand his artistic output as a whole, by blatantly embracing collaboration, and by actively involving himself in the promotion and reception of his work. As the artist Jutta Koether wrote on the occasion of the 2006 Kippenberger exhibition at Tate Modern:
Martin’s posters best represent him and sum up the range of his ability: the humour, the social critique, the clever combination of provocative images and allusions. They were critical and politicised, perfectly expressing his ideas and his personality.
(Jutta Koether in Tate Etc., no.6, Spring 2006, p.36.)
Bice Curiger and Guido Magnaguagno, Martin Kippenberger: Die Gesamten Plakate 1977–1997, Cologne 1998, p.73.
Doris Krystof and Jessica Morgan (eds.), Martin Kippenberger, exhibition catalogue, Tate Modern, London 2006.
Ann Goldstein (ed.), Martin Kippenberger: The Problem Perspective, exhibition catalogue, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles 2008.