Art Term

Capitalist realism

Capitalist realism was a movement formed in Düsseldorf in Germany in 1963 to challenge the dominating influence of American pop art in the Western world

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 during the Cold War, 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.