Martin Kippenberger’s own biography 


Born in Dortmund, the only boy in a family of five, with two elder and two younger sisters. His father is director of the Katharina-Elisabeth colliery, his mother a dermatologist.


The family moves to Essen. He spends six years at a ‘strict, evangelical’ school in the Black Forest. Shows great artistic talent even as a child, although he skips art classes after his teacher gives him only the second highest grade, feeling that this grade is unfair.


Attempts to maintain control over his freedom of movement by going to the dance hall; aged 14, is told by dance teacher Anne Blomke, ‘Herr Kippenberger, don’t waggle your behind like that.’ This exaggeration is a deciding factor. Cherishes ambitions thereafter to become the third best dancer in Europe.


After taking his fourth-year exam three times he decides to leave school and pursue a practical career. Rejected as a trainee by the Böhmer shoe store for having ‘too much talent’. Starts a course in window dressing with the Boecker clothing store.


Fired from his job for taking drugs. Trip to Scandinavia.


Has therapy at a farm near Hamburg. Discharged as cured.


Moves to Hamburg and lives in various communes. Meets Ina Barfuss, Joachim Krüger and Thomas Wachweger.


Begins studying at the Hamburg Art Academy (Hochschule für bildende Kunst). Quits after sixteen semesters.


Leaves Hamburg for Florence, hoping to become an actor. Paints the first canvases in his series Uno di voi, un tedesco in Firenze. All these works are in the same format, 50 x 60 cm, in black and white, mainly based on postcards or on photos taken by himself. However, the project remains incomplete. The idea was for the frames of the pictures, when stacked together, to reach his own height of 189 cm, but the end result (around 70 works) falls 10 cm short.


Returns to Hamburg. First one-man show of his Florence pictures at the Petersen Gallery. Meets Werner Büttner and Albert Oehlen.


Moves to Berlin. Founds Kippenberger’s Büro with Gisela Capitain. At the same time becomes manager of the famous S.O. 36 club, a venue for the film festivals and concerts he organises (including performances by Lydia Lunch, Wire, Adam and the Ants, and the Iggy Pop drummer). Also mounts exhibitions in the Office. Founds The Grugas punk band. Makes his first single, ‘Luxus’, with Christine Hahn and Eric Mitchell.


Kippenberger’s Büro shows the exhibition Misery, including works by Werner Büttner, Achim Duchow, Walter Dahn and Georg Herold. Meets Michel Würthle, the owner of the Paris Bar in Berlin. Donates works of his own to the restaurant on permanent loan. Goes on a trip to the United States, resulting in works in sound and pictures by himself and Achim Schächtele entitled Vassals of Tourism and shown in the Cafe Einstein, Berlin. The professional poster artist Hans Siebert paints the series of twelve works Dear Painter, Paint for Me from ideas by Kippenberger. Buys early works by Ina Barfuss and Thomas Wachweger for his own collection. Meets his future gallerist Max Hetzler. Acts in three films directed by women: Christel Kaufmann’s Gibby West Germany, Ulrike Oettinger’s Bildnis einer Trinkerin [Portrait of a Woman Drunk] and Gisela Stelli’s Liebe Sehnsucht Abenteuer [Love Yearning Adventure], after which he abandons his career in films. His models: Albert Finney in Under the Volcano and Ben Gazzara in The Killing of a Chinese Bookie.


Moves to Paris, intending to become a writer, lives in hotels on the Left Bank. Works on his first novel, excerpts from which are used in 1981 in the series of events entitled Through Puberty to Success.


Visits Siena, then spends some time working in the Black Forest and Stuttgart. First series of paintings using colour, shown at the Hetzler Gallery in Stuttgart under the title A Secret of the Success of Mr A. Onassis.


Collaborates with Albert Oehlen on such works as Capri by Night and 0rgone Box By Night. Meets Günther Förg and admires his work.


Settles in Cologne, with a studio near the Friesenplatz. Meets Martin Prinzhorn in Vienna. Spends six months with Albert Oehlen at Prinzhorn’s property, the ‘Thomasburg’, in Editz near Vienna. In Vienna, the gallerist Peter Pakesch introduces him to Franz West. Collaborates with Albert Oehlen on several projects, including the legendary Fiaker Race (1st prize, Martin Kippenberger; 2nd prize, Albert Oehlen; 3rd prize withheld for lack of serious participants). Returns to Cologne. Paints Casa Magnetica.


Publication of the catalogue Wahrheit ist Arbeit [Truth is Work] by Werner Büttner, Martin Kippenberger and Albert Oehlen for their exhibition in the Folkwang Museum, Essen. Stays with Michael Krebber in Santa Cruz, Tenerife. First attempts at sculpture, including the Peter series. Becomes a member of the ‘Lord Jim Loge’, acknowledging that organisation’s first commandment, ‘No-one helps anyone’ (members: Jörg Schlick and Wolfgang Bauer). Paints pictures entitled I.N.P.(for lst Nicht Peinlich = ls Not Embarrassing).


Goes to the health resort of Knokke, Belgium, for a cure. Hires a ghost writer to record his vacation experiences there in a work entitled How It Really Was, From the Example of Knokke. First photographic works exhibited in the CCD Gallery, Diisseldorf, under the title of
Helmut Newton for the Poor. Creates sculptural works in the series Hunger Family, and Profit Peaks. Meets Christian Bernard, director of the Villa Arson, Nice.


Trip to Brazil (‘The Magical Misery Tour’), where he buys a disused gas station and renames it the Martin Bormann Gas Station. First large-scale museum exhibition, Rent Electricity Gas in the Hessisches Landesmuseum, Darmstadt; catalogue under the same title published with texts by Bazon Brock and Diedrich Diederichsen. Anti-Apartheid Drinking Congress during the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh: the first and only political act in the artist’s work. Stays at the Hotel Chelsea in Cologne and redesigns it. Main autobiographical work of this period: the book Cafe Central: Sketches for the Protagonist of a Novel.


First exhibition in France at the Villa Arson, Nice, with Werner Büttner and Albert and Markus Oehlen. Exhibition of sculptures, Peter – the Russian Position, at the Max Hetzler Gallery, Cologne; subsequently shown in Vienna, Graz and New York. Is curator of the exhibition Broken Neon in the Forum Stadtpark, Graz, containing works by several artists including Joseph Beuys, Georg Jiri Dokoupil, Fischli & Weiss, Franz West and Heimo Zobernig.


Moves to Spain (Seville and Madrid) with Albert Oehlen. Is chiefly occupied in painting. Creates Self-portraits with Underpants, Street Lamp for Drunks and Chicken Disco, shown in the Aperto of the Venice Biennale.


Birth of his daughter Helena Augusta Eleonore. Preparations for a tripartite exhibition Cologne/Los Angeles/New York 1990–91, as recorded in a catalogue from the Villa Arson, Nice. Is curator of the exhibition Euro-stroll I–III in Cologne and Graz, showing works by Luis Claramunt, Sven Åke Johansson and Michael Krebber. Moves to Los Angeles at the end of the year.


Creates his first latex-covered pictures in the USA. Meets Mike Kelley, John Caldwell, Ira Wool and Cady Noland. Begins collecting contemporary American art more intensively. Buys 35% share in ownership of the Italian restaurant, Capri, in Venice, Los Angeles. Returns to Cologne and begins term as guest professor at the Städelschule, Frankfurt. A public uproar is caused by the carving Fred the Frog on the Artist’s Cross during an exhibition at the Jänner Gallery, Vienna.


Updates the art collection of the Paris Bar, Berlin, by adding works of artists including Louise Lawler, Laurie Simmons, Barbara Ess and Zoe Leonard. Major installation entitled Deep Throat in a subway tunnel on the occasion of the Wiener Festwochen (Vienna Festival Weeks). Exhibition at the Kunstverein, Cologne, of photographs of works painted and later destroyed. One-man show at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Gives more interviews, particularly to Jutta Koether, Diedrich Diederichsen and Oswald Wiener. Learns the noble art of accordion playing from free-jazz musician Rüdiger Carl. Seriously considers taking time off to complete Franz Kafka’s fragment of a novel Amerika, giving it a happy ending. Lives and works in Cologne and Frankfurt.


Teaches at the Comprehensive University of Kassel, as professor of the Happy Kippenberger Class. Is a guest lecturer at Yale University and in Nice and Amsterdam (until 1995). Moves further and further away from the art world; lives and works in the Black Forest.


Revises his address book, parting from several friends. Becomes increasingly convinced that the world of music is defunct and the theatre is insular. From now on, concentrates on recommendations from people previously unknown to him. Is constantly at odds with the art market (which thinks him crazy). Runs the Kippenberger Art Society in the Fridericianum in Kassel until 1995, putting on one-man shows of the works of Albert Oehlen, Ulrich Strothjohann, Cosima von Bonin, Michael Krebber, Johannes Wohnseifer, and a group exhibition entitled Art of Women – Art of Men with works by over thirty artists. Announcement for a candidature to a retrospective at the Samia Saouma Gallery; exhibition Candidature à une rétrospective at the Georges Pompidou Centre, Paris. Builds first subway station on Syros, linked 1995 to subway station in Dawson City West (Yukon Territory, Canada). Construction of a subway station in Leipzig (site of the 1997 Leipzig Trade Fair), a transportable underground station for documenta X, Kassel (1997), and a transportable ventilation shaft for Sculpture. Projects in Münster (1997). Founds the MOMAS (Museum of Modern Art, Syros). Opening exhibition featuring Hubert Kiecol, followed by annual exhibitions so far featuring works by Ulrich Strothjohann, Christopher Wool, Cosima von Bonin, Stephen Prina, Christopher Williams, Michel Majerus, Johannes Wohnseifer, Heimo Zobernig.


First aluminium sculptures (War Wicked) and Santa Claus disguised as frog on a fried egg with street lamp (island) disguised as palm tree. Begins on ‘art as allotment gardening’ project, starting with the cycle Don’t Wake Daddy, concluding in Madrid with Cocido y crudo (wooden reliefs with wooden fences). Installation, The Happy End of Franz Kafka’s ‘Amerika’, in Rotterdam, accompanied by the publication of nine books: Amazing, by Daniel Richter and Werner Büttner; The Schoppenhauer. A Play, by Walter Grond; Bold and unusual: Kippenberger’s Example, by Heliod Spiekermann; An Interview, by Jörg Schlick; The Happy End of Franz Kafka’s ‘Amerika’, Table 3, With a View to an Interview, by the Grässlin family; lnterview 54, Dialogue for Two Accordions, by Rüdiger Carl; Embauche au Balkan, by Michel Würthle; B: Conversations with Martin Kippenberger, by Jutta Koether; More smoking!, by Diedrich Diederichsen and Roberto Ohrt.


Cycle of drawings Eroticism behind architecture in Tokyo. Gives up spirits in favour of Californian red wine. Becomes member of the ‘Club an der Grenze’ (The Border Club). Moves to the Burgenland area. Plans an exhibition in the Matisse Studio, Nice: Spiderman. Release of CD entitled Beuys’s Best, in new sound, freely adapted from Joseph Beuys. Second book, Hotel-Hotel.


Marries Elfie Semotan. Makes a start on construction work for the Tower of Syros with built-in Staircase 1990, by Cady Noland. Returns to the subject of eggs and noodles with renewed interest. Begins The Raft of Medusa cycle and J. Picasso, his sad portraits of Jacqueline Picasso. Releases CD Greatest Hits; 17 years of Martin Kippenberger’s Music (with Rüdiger Carl, Sven Åke Johansson, Christina Hahn, Achim Kubinski, Eric Mitchell and Albert Oehlen). Another CD made with Lukas Baumewerd, Subway Station Noises (international).  Exhibition at the Villa Merkel, Esslingen, instead of the Krupp family’s Villa Hügel, Essen. Plans to close the exhibition room Fettstrasse 7a at Birgit Küng’s in Zurich (has run Fettstrasse 7a in Hamburg, with A. Oehlen, since about 1984). Is awarded the Käthe Kollwitz Prize, worth DM 10,000. Begins introducing Helmut Lang to the world of art, while Lang introduces Kippenberger to the world of fashion.


28 January, opening of the final exhibition at the Fettstrasse 7a exhibition room in Zurich. 30 January, his retrospective exhibition  Respektive 1997–1976 opens at MAMCO (Musée d’art moderne et contemporain) in Geneva. 1 February, exhibition The Eggman and his Outriggers in the Städtisches Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach.

Martin Kippenberger dies on 7 March in Vienna.

From the book Kippenberger, with kind permission of TASCHEN GmbH,
Hohenzollernring 53, 50672 Cologne,
© Estate Martin Kippenberger, Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne