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The Collection of Thomas and Doris Ammann


oil and silicone on two joined canvases, in artist's painted frame
48 x 78 3/4 in. (120 x 200 cm.)
Painted in 1984.
Albert Oehlen, Germany, acquired directly from the artist
Thomas Ammann Fine Art AG, Zurich
Private collection
Anon. sale; Phillips, New York, 13 November 2014, lot 10
Thomas Ammann Fine Art AG, Zurich
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Kippenberger: Pinturas/Paintings/Gemälde, October 2004-January 2005, p. 128 (illustrated).
Zurich, Thomas Ammann Fine Art AG, Martin Kippenberger, June-September 2009, n.p., no. 1 (illustrated).
Zurich, Thomas Ammann Fine Art AG, Trio Infernal: Büttner & Kippenberger & Oehlen, September 2020-March 2021.
This work will be part of the forthcoming Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings Vol. II 1983-1986 being compiled by the Estate of Martin Kippenberger.


Isabella Lauria
Isabella Lauria Vice President, Senior Specialist, Head of 21st Century Evening Sale


One of the most influential artists of his generation, Martin Kippenberger’s artistic output is so audacious, encompassing painting, sculpture, and collage, as to be almost impossible to categorize. Untitled is likewise beyond simple classification, at once uncanny, lush, beautiful, and apocalyptic. Exhibited in Madrid at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia as part of the 2004-2005 retrospective Martin Kippenberger: Paintings, the animated Untitled is exemplary of Kippenberger’s skill with paint and his fantastical imagination that would leave an indelible mark on subsequent artists. Once owned by another icon of German painting, the painter Albert Oehlen, the present work carries with it the history of a fractured generation and an unyielding search for new means of expression. As critic Jerry Saltz argues, “His canvases are visually intense and physically and materially alive, establishing their own powerful conceptual orbits” (J. Saltz, “The Artist Who Did Everything,” Artnet Magazine, February 26, 2009,

The scene in Untitled is an incredible mixture of emotional spaces and styles. The molten red and yellow sky is foreboding, yet purple, blue, and green hold their own as statements of optimism. A white concrete building absorbs these dancing colors through light and shadow, invigorating the spareness of its design that recalls the faceless buildings of Kippenberger’s youth in West Germany. It is as if modernist architecture and Abstract Expressionism have collided, meeting where a whitewashed exterior reflects the dazzling sunset. Yet this particular building has a name. It is in fact the famed Betty Ford Center in California, a rehabilitation center that had opened in 1982 outside of Palm Springs (Kippenberger briefly moved to Los Angeles in late 1989). Kippenberger, who managed to create an unparalleled artistic career while dealing with addiction, also referenced the Betty Ford Center in the collage I Love Betty Ford Klinik (1985) and the painting Betty Ford Clinic (1985). While Kippenberger’s personal struggles are relevant here, Untitled is not a tragic painting. By fusing two canvases together, the artist suggests healing, even within spaces where there may be suffering: an addiction treatment center, postwar Germany, within one’s self.

Equally important are Kippenberger’s artistic admixtures in Untitled that fluctuate among paint, architecture, and collage. Fundamentally, this work is a collage, a favorite medium for the artist, in addition to a painting, since it is comprised of united canvases—a healed diptych. We could recall the humorous and anti-establishment collages of the Dada artists, like Hannah Höch and Raoul Hausmann, but we might go back even further to the winged, or hinged, altarpieces of the Middle Ages and the Northern Renaissance, epitomized by the Ghent Altarpiece (c. 1420-1432). Though there is certainly nothing holy about Kippenberger’s scene, it is nevertheless a site of introspection drawn together from discrete parts.

Never stopped by the alleged death of painting, Kippenberger could also be said to reference the greatest practitioners of the medium. Untitled upends the romanticism of Caspar David Friedrich, or perhaps emulates the psychosexual self-portraits of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner—two radically different and canonical German painters. Untitled carries with it the heterogeneous history of European painting, evincing within its audacious brushstrokes the liveliness of a medium that had been deemed passé by the establishment in the 1980s. As the artist’s youngest sister and journalist Susanne Kippenberger suggests, “Martin didn’t behave according to any rules, whether the rules of my parents, the punks, or the art world” (M. Purves, “Susanne Kippenberger on ‘Kippenberger,” The Paris Review, March 13, 2012,

Kippenberger’s reputation only expanded after his premature death in 1997. Institutional solo exhibitions include the Bundeskunsthalle in Bonn (2019), Bank Austria Kunstforum, Vienna (2016), the Hamburger Bahnhof, Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin, (2013), and his celebrated traveling retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2008-2009). Toward the end of his life, he taught at the Staatliche Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Frankfurt and the Kassel Art Academy. A collaborative artist, Kippenberger also commissioned fellow artists like Christopher Wool, Rosemarie Trockel, and Mike Kelley to create his exhibition posters, and he co-represented Germany alongside Candida Höfer at the 2003 Venice Bienniale.

Though we cannot know where Kippenberger’s work would have taken us if not for his untimely passing, we can be sure that it would have been engrossing and challenging like the present lot. If Kippenberger has largely been discussed in terms of his larger-than-life personality and the anti-establishment humor in his work, we might say that Untitled is sincere, and perhaps peaceful within the painterly tumult. Even within lives deemed to burn hot, there are moments of stillness; here a love of and engagement with paint comes through, if under the guise of an ironic distance.

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