Georg Baselitz: Sigmund’s Cave

Cat. CFA Berlin

Exhibition catalogue, edited by CFA Berlin
text (German/English) by Anselm Wagner
48 p with 32 coloured inllustrations
325 x 235 mm, hardcover

ISBN 978-3-86442-154-9

29,80 €

Painting doggy style, as it were

Anselm Wagner’s rather readable essay kicks off with a culturally and historically very interesting and satirically tinged tour de force into the pictorial world of thought of the great German painter Georg Baselitz, and above all into all the entanglements and histories that make up the subject of his latest series of works: »Sigmund's Cave«. Already the title suggests a hair-raising story. Placed under house arrest by the Gestapo aged 82 and suffering from cancer, the father of psychoanalysis, together with his daughter Anna, translated into German a French book about a female chow-chow dog who suffered, just like him, from a carcinoma in the right pharynx, and who had to endure multiple surgeries and radiation treatments until it was finally healed; a happy ending that Freud, as we all know, was unfortunately denied. The original French version of the book came from Freud's patient girlfriend and patron Marie Bonaparte, who later helped him and his family to emigrate.
As frequently the case with dog owners, the relationship of the Freud family with their four-legged friends is contradictory – Freud successively had three chow-chows, Anna owned a German shepherd. On the one hand, says Wagner, »they embody an almost paradisiacal existence, untouched by culture and the discomfort associated with it«; on the other hand, Freud and his psychoanalysis is firmly located in the materialist tradition of the Cynics, the dog philosophers ... who performed their physical needs in public, just like dogs; who despised the achievements and taboos of civilization and who fought Platonic idealism with coarse activism«. Yet, even if Georg Baselitz, himself a dog owner, as documented by some photos in this book, »painted dogs and other animals, they first and foremost belong to the conventional, ›banale‹ themes such as landscapes, still lifes, nudes and portraits, that were to distract as little as possible from painting as such.« The painter, however, is up to all sorts of mischief with his grandiose notions, such as a kind of »hole« in the middle of these dog portraits, or the cloud ornament which he binds to the abdomen of the dogs like an apron, »their pattern, by no means a coincidence, reminiscent of an anus or vulva«.

CFA Contemporary Fine Arts Berlin: 1/10–14/11/2015