Alibis: Sigmar Polke 1963–2010 exhibition web banner
Alibis: Sigmar Polke 1963–2010
Tate Modern: Exhibition
9 October 20148 February 2015
£14.50, concessions available

Adult £14.50 (without donation £13.10)
Concession £12.50 (without donation £11.30)
Help Tate by including the voluntary donation to enable Gift Aid
No booking fees with this exhibition
Under 12s go free (up to four per parent or guardian)
This exhibition includes some works of a challenging nature. Please contact us for further information.

1 of 4
  • Sigmar Polke Girlfriends (Freundinnen) 1965/66
    Sigmar Polke (1941 - 2010)
    Girlfriends (Freundinnen) 1965/66
  • Black and white photograph of Pakistani men sitting in a room, with colourful felt tip markings over the top
    Sigmar Polke
    Untitled (Quetta, Pakistan) 1974–1978
  • Dot drawing side on portrait of Lee Harvey Oswald
    Sigmar Polke
    Raster Drawing (Portrait of Lee Harvey Oswald) 1963
  • Sigmar Polke Polke as Astronaut (Polke als Astronaut) 1968
    Sigmar Polke
    Polke as Astronaut (Polke als Astronaut) 1968
    Private Collection

Sigmar Polke was one of the most insatiably experimental artists of the twentieth century. 

This retrospective is the first to bring together the unusually broad range of media he worked with during his five-decade career – not only painting, drawing, photography, film and sculpture, but also notebooks, slide projections and photocopies. He worked in off-the-wall materials ranging from meteor dust to gold, bubble wrap, snail juice, potatoes, soot and even uranium, all the while resisting easy categorisation. 

Polke’s relentlessly inventive works range in size from the intimacy of a notebook to monumental paintings. He took a wildly different approach to art-making, from his responses to consumer society in the 1960s to his interest in travel, drugs and communal living in the 1970s and his increasingly experimental practice after 1980. 

Beneath Polke’s irreverent wit, promiscuous intelligence, and chance operations lay a deep scepticism of all authority. It would be impossible to understand this attitude, and the creativity that grew out of it, without considering Polke’s biography and its setting. In 1945, near the end of World War II, his family fled Silesia (in present-day Poland) for what would soon be Soviet-occupied East Germany, and then escaped again, this time to West Germany, in 1953.

Polke grew up at a time when many Germans deflected blame for the atrocities of the Nazi period with the alibi, ‘I didn’t see anything’. In various works in the exhibition, Polke opposes many Germans of his generation’s tendency to ignore the Nazi past, as if picking off the scab to reopen the wound.

The Polke show is a forceful and gripping event
Waldemar Januszczak, Sunday Times 

A wild, confusing, eclectic wonder
Rachel Campbell- Johnston, The Times

Brilliantly evocative
Jackie Wullschlager, Financial Times

You think painting is dead? Try this… A distinctive force of talent and mind
The New Yorker

Disoritenting…perplexing…often messy….Deal with it!
NY Time

The exhibition is organised by The Museum of Modern Art, New York, with Tate Modern, London.

Organised by Kathy Halbreich, Associate Director, The Museum of Modern Art, with Mark Godfrey, Curator, International Art, Tate Modern, and Lanka Tattersall, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Painting and Sculpture, The Museum of Modern Art.

Curated at Tate Modern by Mark Godfrey, Curator, International Art, with Kasia Redzisz, Assistant Curator, Tate Modern.