Sigmar Polke, one of Germany’s best-known artists, died last night from cancer at the age of sixty-nine, his dealer Erhard Klein said in a phone interview, according to Bloomberg’s Catherine Hickley. Polke, a painter, graphic artist, and photographer, was “one of the most important and most successful representatives of German contemporary art,” culture minister Bernd Neumann said in a statement. “He was a critical, ironic, and self-ironic observer of postwar history and its artistic commentators.”
Born in 1941 in eastern Germany, Polke emigrated to the west in 1953. He settled in Dusseldorf, where he studied at the Art Academy. In 1963, he founded the “Capitalist Realism” painting movement with Gerhard Richter and Konrad Lueg. The three artists mocked both the realist style that was the official art of the Soviet Union and the consumer-driven pop art of the west. Polke moved to Cologne in 1978.
He experimented with a wide range of styles, subject matter, and materials. In the 1970s, he concentrated on photography, returning to paint in the 1980s, when he produced abstract works created by chance through chemical reactions between paint and other products. In the last twenty years, he produced paintings focused on historical events and perceptions of them.
His work has been exhibited at London’s Royal Academy and Tate Modern, the museum Ludwig in Cologne, the Martin-Gropius-Bau and Hamburger Bahnhof museums in Berlin, New York’s Museum of Modern Art, the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the National Museum of Art in Osaka, and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, among others.
Image: Polke, Watchtower.