Sigmar Polke

Born in Oels, Germany, in 1941, Sigmar Polke began his artistic career in 1963 by cofounding the Capitalist Realism movement with Gerhard Richter and Konrad Lueg. Capitalist Realism reflected the poverty and aspirations of everyday Germans in the early postwar years and was a gritty and humorous response to the glamour and frivolity of American Pop Art. Developing a homemade aesthetic that used raster dots, found fabrics, ballpoint pens, and household paint, Polke made works of provocative simplicity that upended traditional artistic hierarchies, attacked abstraction, and playfully undermined conceptualism.

In the early 1970s, photography came to dominate Polke’s creative pursuit, the alchemical side of which would prove significant in his paintings in the later 1970s and beyond. Thereafter, his signature style mashed together representation and abstraction, which he further complicated with the introduction of unstable pigments that changed color with temperature and humidity. Images from newspapers and magazines were appropriated, enlarged, and distorted, before being hand-painted onto canvases made up of translucent materials and found fabrics. Polke died in 2010.

Polke is among the world’s most celebrated artists, and his work has been the subject of retrospective exhibitions at numerous institutions, including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1991; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 1996; Nationalgalerie im Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin, 1997–98; Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1999; Tate Modern, London, 2003–4; and at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and Tate Modern, London, in 2014.

Selected Artworks

June 19, 2017

Why Old Women Have Replaced Young Men as the Art World’s Darlings

Artsy Editorial by Anna Louie Sussman

Seeing the retrospective in Paris convinced McCaffrey, the longtime collector and gallerist, that he needed to bring her (Carol Rama) work to the U.S. market. He mounted a show of nearly 50 works from between 1938 and 1945 in September 2016. “Unless you have recognition in the U.S., you don’t really have a market,” he says. “We showed Ramas this time last year in Basel and Americans had no awareness.” This year, his booth at Art Basel in Basel placed Rama alongside the Gutai artist Kazuo Shiraga, as both artists’ work addressed life under totalitarianism by seeking to liberate the body and its functions. Read More
June 16, 2017

Gutai’s spectacular rise—and potential fall

The Art Newspaper by Matthew Wilcox

Crucial in Gutai’s sudden boom, in McCaffrey’s view, was the fact that the group had essentially been ignored in the US since the 1950s. “Look at the market for Italian post-war work, or back to the late 1980s, when the German Neo-Expressionists started to make an impact in the US. There are these discrepancies in information and knowledge that pop up.” Read More