Retrospective Martin Kippenberger Bundeskunsthalle Bonn

Martin Kippenberger had apparently been a fighter for the freedom of art, and he had taken great care not to make false friends, according to Kia Vahland in her major review in the Süddeutsche Zeitung on 2/3 November 2019. Just how unbitter and silly such a celebration of artistic freedom might look is demonstrated by the retrospective at Bundeskunsthalle in Bonn. Fortunately, our present is close enough to the 20th century that the outrageous lightness of Martin Kippenberger’s art, with which he negotiated questions of meaning, can still inspire and motivate us.


Rein Wolfs writes in his Foreword:

Input-Output – there could be no simpler, more fitting description of the mechanics of Martin Kippenberger’s artistic practice than this term, which is also the title of a series of works by him. Input­output analysis, which originated in empirical economic research, is designed to determine the relationship between investment and yield. It is surely exceptional that the essence of an economic procedure can be applied so seamlessly to an artistic strategy. Martin Kippenberger has often – with good reason – been described as a master
of combination and collaboration. In his case any issues concerning authorship, genre, and medium, or even (supposed) originality, recede into the background; indeed he rebuffed any talk of the latter. Kippenberger sampled works of his own and by other artists, he commissioned third parties to execute concepts, he played ideas­ping­pong with many of the individuals in his immediate circle, including artist friends, assistants, curators, and gallerists. In addition much of his “input” specifically came from the visual world around him – advertising, posters, television, and fashion – which Kippenberger turned to not only for motifs but also for concepts. He was a catalyst for all that he absorbed: he reinforced, exaggerated, changed, and reshaped things, he used irony and satire, created new contexts and – often by means of the titles he devised – opened up a level that went far beyond the picture as such. That this deliberate seeking out and processing of “input” has nothing to do with any possible lack of creative potential but on the contrary arises from a profuse abundance of ideas is seen not least in the fact that ultimately Kippenberger’s output vastly outweighed his input.
Kippenberger’s reference to a concept from economics was without doubt also linked to his intense interest in Andy Warhol and his Factory. Kippenberger’s “Büro,” as he called his professional studio, can certainly be seen as an equivalent, suited to his own aims, to Warhol’s art production base in New York. The entire Input-Output series is drawn on pages from a pad of hotel invoices. The motifs are mainly sketches of Kippenberger’s various studios and apartments, with indications as to the location and drinks consumed there. All forms of input, that is to say, external impressions as well as things ingested either as sustenance or for pleasure, are added together and given a fictitious cost. Of course this is an ironic take by Kippenberger on this analogical form of bookkeeping, and yet he presents it as a model of his artistic strategy. How closely and energetically Martin Kippenberger was in contact with his highly diverse milieu is evident not only from his artistic practice but also repeatedly comes across in conversations with the individuals who take care of his complex, comprehensive estate.