Not on display

2 works on paper, acrylic paint and screenprint; 1 work on board, pigment on cardboard stencil; and acrylic paint on wall
Support: 485 × 540 mm
Purchased with assistance from Tate Members and Tate Patrons 2012


Blaues Dreieck by the German artist Blinky Palermo is a stencil used to create a blue triangular form. The stencil is editioned published by René Black in 1969. The triangle should be installed over a door at its centre point. Here it can be read as a decorative ornament, but it can also seem to charge the room and its entrance or exit, particularly because of the intense blue colour, associated with heavenly transcendence, and the apex of the triangle that appears to point upwards beyond the realms of architecture. This effect is, in turn, undermined by the work’s impermanence – the fact that it is painted on the wall and it must be painted over to be removed, as well as its status as an edition rather than a single object.

Palermo made several works using isosceles triangles, starting with Tagtraum I 1965 and culminating in Blaues Dreieck, which was installed at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels in 1970, where blue triangles were painted onto the walls and evenly spaced. In his essay ‘The Palermo Triangles’ art historian Benjamin H. D. Buchloh has related the shapes to the triangular forms in pre-war utopian constructivist abstraction and to Joseph Beuys’s Fat Corner of 1963 (see Buchloh, ‘The Palermo Triangles’, in Los Angeles County Museum of Art 2010). Buchloh has also emphasised the importance of the work Yves Klein to Palermo in the latter’s use of ultramarine.

Palermo is one of the most important artists to have emerged in Germany in the 1960s. A student of Beuys in the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, Palermo was a friend of Gerhard Richter, Imi Knoebel and Sigmar Polke. He was particularly fascinated by New York abstraction and spent time in the city in the mid-1970s before returning to Düsseldorf to paint his magnus opus, To the People of New York City 1976 (Dia Art Foundation, New York). His work has gained more and more attention since his death in 1977 and retrospectives in Düsseldorf and in Los Angeles have cemented his reputation as one of the key figures in art of the post-war period.

Palermo’s work is often divided into four categories: cloth pictures, wall paintings and drawings, objects, and metal paintings. The wall paintings and drawings were conceived as temporary interventions and were made in response to the particularities of the architecture of each setting, such that they are no longer extant. Like his contemporaries, Palermo devoted a lot of attention and care to editions. Many were published by his galleries, such as René Block and Heiner Friedrich, and others were made on the occasion of exhibitions at venues across Germany, such as the Stadtisches Museum Mönchengladbach, and the Kabinett fur aktuelle Kunst in Bremerhaven, or for the friends of museums including the Düsseldorfer Kunstverein.

Further reading
Susanne Küper (ed.), Palermo, exhibition catalogue, Kunsthalle Düsseldorf and Kunstverein Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf 2007.
Christine Mehring, Blinky Palermo: Abstraction of an Era, New Haven and London 2008.
Lynne Cooke (ed.), Blinky Palermo: Retrospective 1964–1977, exhibition catalogue, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles 2010.

Mark Godfrey
January 2012

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Display caption

Rather than painting geometric shapes onto a white canvas, Palermo began to paint them onto the white wall of the gallery. The relation between foreground and background in a conventional painting is transmuted into a more direct relationship between the shape and the surrounding environment. Placed above the doorway, the triangle can be seen as a decorative feature, but also as a way to redirect our gaze around the architectural space.

Gallery label, October 2016

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