Sigmar Polke, ‘Girlfriends I’ 1967
Sigmar Polke
Girlfriends I 1967
Tate
© The estate of Sigmar Polke/ DACS 2019

Capitalist realism is sometimes thought of as German pop art because the artists associated with it were similarly interested in mass media and the banal. Yet unlike pop art, its cultural value was political, not economical, using Germany’s post-war society as its starting point.

The movement was founded in Cold War Berlin, and it is important to see the development of capitalist realism in relation to this. The Eastern block had socialist realism and the West had pop art, both were essentially art for the masses. For artists living in Berlin, a city straddling both artistic ideologies, capitalist realism represented their unique situation.

Artists associated with capitalist realism included Sigmar Polke, Gerhard Richter, Manfred Kuttner and Konrad Lueg.