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Photograph of Sigmar Polke

Biography

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

  • Drawings
  • Paintings
  • Photography
  • Photocopies
  • Untitled (Hair Removal Cream)
    1963
    Ballpoint pen on paper
    11 34 × 8 14 inches (29.7 × 21 cm).
    © Estate of Sigmar Polke
  • Untitled (Handbags)
    1963
    Ballpoint pen on paper
    11 34 × 8 12 inches (29.7 × 21 cm).
    © Estate of Sigmar Polke
  • Untitled (Three Dice)
    1964
    Ballpoint pen on paper
    11 34 × 8 14 inches (29.7 × 21 cm).
    © Estate of Sigmar Polke
  • Biskuitrolle (Jelly Roll)
    1964
    Ballpoint pen and gouache on paper
    11 34 × 8 14 inches (29.85 × 20.96 cm).
    © Estate of Sigmar Polke
  • Untitled (Vase)
    1965
    Ballpoint pen on paper
    11 34 × 8 14 inches (29.7 × 21 cm).
    © Estate of Sigmar Polke
  • Eintopf
    1965
    Ballpoint pen and gouache on paper
    11 34 × 8 14 inches (29.85 × 20.96 cm).
    © Estate of Sigmar Polke
  • Untitled (Kreisende Formen)
    1966
    Pencil, watercolor and silver paint on paper
    11 34 × 8 14 inches (29.7 × 21 cm).
    © Estate of Sigmar Polke
  • Untitled (Rundes Gesicht mit Schachtelnase)
    1968
    Watercolor, ballpoint pen and lithophone on paper
    11 34 × 8 13 inches (29.8 × 21.3 cm).
    © Estate of Sigmar Polke
  • Biskuitrolle (Jelly Roll)
    1964
    Ballpoint pen and gouache on paper
    11 34 × 8 14 inches (29.85 × 20.96 cm).
    © Estate of Sigmar Polke
  • Untitled (Fluss mit Palme und Asten)
    1969
    Pencil and watercolor on paper
    11 34 × 8 14 inches (29.7 × 21 cm).
    © Estate of Sigmar Polke
  • Biskuitrolle (Jelly Roll)
    1964
    Ballpoint pen and gouache on paper
    11 34 × 8 14 inches (29.85 × 20.96 cm).
    © Estate of Sigmar Polke

Exhibitions

Other Exhibitions

Press

Publications

Cover image of Sigmar Polke / Andy Warhol : Drawings 1962-1965

Sigmar Polke / Andy Warhol : Drawings 1962-1965

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