Martin Kippenberger Ertragsgebirge mit Wirtschaftswerten von Joseph Beuys I /  Profit Peaks with Economic Values by Joseph Beuys

Martin Kippenberger
Ertragsgebirge mit Wirtschaftswerten von Joseph Beuys /  Profit Peaks with Economic Values by Joseph Beuys 1985
Grässlin Collection

I’m rather like a travelling salesman. I deal in ideas. I am far more to people than someone who paints pictures.
Martin Kippenberger (1953–1997)

This room brings together some of the work that Kippenberger showed in Money Forever (Hunger), an exhibition that included his first sculptures, held at Galerie Bärbel Grässlin, Frankfurt in 1985. The title of the show is typically ambiguous. It could be an ironic reference to the city’s status as the heart of Germany’s finance industry. However, the Barbara Hepworth-like sculptures he exhibited featured the British artist’s signature round forms and hollow spaces, so the title also puns on the apparently stomach-less condition of the figures. The original inspiration for these works stemmed from a brief appearance of a similarly Hepworth-like sculpture in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954). Kippenberger’s use of this sculptural form is thus, typically, a double appropriation.

Kippenberger made frequent reference to the work of other artists in his own output, and also on display in this room is a group of work that relates directly to Joseph Beuys, who boasted a heroic status in Germany in the 1980s. Kippenberger’s portrait of Beuys’s mother and two of his paintings based on economic graphs, with multiples by Beuys affixed to their surface, attest to the younger artist’s thorny relationship to this father-figure of contemporary German art, which was fuelled by contradictory impulses of competition and admiration, rejection and artistic debt. But for Kippenberger the social utopias envisioned by the previous generation – in particular those of Beuys – were exhausted. Rather than maintain Beuys’s famous idealism, expressed in the maxim ‘everyone is an artist’, Kippenberger coined his own ironic version of the phrase: ‘every artist is a human being’.