Baselitz: The retrospective
Centre Pompidou, Paris
October 20, 2021 – March 07, 2022
Unclassifiable, vacillating between figuration, abstraction and a conceptual approach, Georg Baselitz claims to paint images that have yet to exist and to unearth that which has been relegated to the past: ‘I was born amid an order destroyed, in a landscape of ruins, a people in ruins, a society in ruins. And I didn’t want to establish a new order. I had seen more than enough of so-called orders. I had to question everything, I had to become ‘naive’ again, to start over. I have neither the sensitivity nor the education or philosophy of the Italian Mannerists. But I am a mannerist in the sense that I deform things. I am brutal, naive and Gothic.’
Intimately linked to the artist’s experience and imagination, Georg Baselitz’s powerful work testifies to the complexity of life as an artist in post-war Germany and reveals his endlessly renewed questionings; on the possibilities of representing his memories, variations in technique and traditional motifs of painting, aesthetic forms developed over the course of art history, and the formalisms dictated and conveyed by the various political and aesthetic regimes of the 20th and 21st centuries.
Born in 1938, Hans-Georg Kern (his real name) was marked by his childhood in Saxony during the Nazi period and by the atrocities of war he was witness to. He was born in the village Großbaselitz (renamed Deutschbaselitz in 1948) which inspired the pseudonym he adopted in 1961. As of 1949, he grew up under the authoritarian regime of the German Democratic Republic, where abstract painting was prohibited, as an alleged expression of ‘capitalist decline’.
In 1956, young Baselitz enrolled in the Hochschule für bildende und angewandte Kunst in Weissensee, East Berlin, and began studying painting under Walter Womacka (1925-2010), who was to earn a reputation as one of the most significant representatives of social realism in the GDR. When Baselitz began to draw on the work of Picasso for the paintings he produced in school, he was expelled, according to his teachers for a lack of ‘socio-cultural maturity’.
He thus decided to cross the border and pursue his studies at the Staatliche Hochschule für bildende Künste in West Berlin, where, through Hann Trier’s international class, he discovered the artistic movements adopted by West German artists at the height of the Cold War, such as the informal art developed in France or American abstract expressionism.
Georg Baselitz’s works have been presented in numerous international retrospectives. He has also been awarded some of the world’s most prestigious prizes, such as the Kaiserring (1986), the international Julio González Prize (2001) and the Japanese Praemium Imperiale (2004). Appointed Commandeur des arts et des lettres by the French Government in 2002, Georg Baselitz was elected in October 2019 as a foreign associate member to the Académie des Beaux-arts [French Academy of Fine Arts], a chair previously held by the Polish film-maker Andrzej Wajda (1926-2016).