Martin Kippenberger was a painter, writer, musician-dancer, show-off, provocateur and drinker. He would have been 60 this year. He's one of the few German artists who has had solo exhibitions at the New York Museum of Modern Art and the London Tate Modern - but only after his death in 1997.
Kippenberger was born on February 25, 1953, in Dortmund. He dropped out of the University of Fine Arts in Hamburg. He always suffered after that from the fact that he hadn't got any proper qualification as an artist. People were always telling him that he was a bad painter.
During his lifetime, the art market took little interest in his pictures. According to Art magazine, one of his paintings cost 300 Deutschmarks in 1981 and 30,000 Deutschmarks in the mid 1990s, but by October 2012 a self-portrait of his fetched 3.95 million euros ($5.16 million) at a Christie's auction.
Kippenberger was his own favorite model and such pictures make up a considerable proportion of his work. The Hamburger Bahnhof museum in Berlin is showing an exhibition of his works called "sehr gut | very good" until August 18 and the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt is showing "Last Works" from February 28 until June 2.
Another major topic of his work is provocation. "Zuerst die Füsse" ("First the Feet") from 1980, which shows two crucified frogs, brought him the reputation of being a joker, but the director of the German National Gallery, Udo Kittelmann, says, "He wasn't trying for slapstick. It's always the bitter truth that he tries to bring over."
As well as paintings, he also created installations, such as the "Sozialkistentransporter" ("Transporter for Social Boxes") which he made for an exhibition in Cologne in 1989. Cologne was only one of a number of cities in which he worked: In addition to Berlin, he lived in Graz, Los Angeles, Madrid, Syros, Tokyo and Vienna.
"Metro-Net" was Kippenberg's name for a series of dummy subway entrances and ventilator shafts which he placed in absurd places such as on a Greek island. His "Transportable Subway Entrance" was shown posthumously at the Dokumenta X in 1997.
In 1976, at the age of 23, Kippenberger made a floor out of 1,300 photographs for the Berlin fashion designer Claudia Skoda. He often sold his works in exchange for clothes or food in order to finance his lifestyle. The floor was rediscovered in 2003, and it's part of the current exhibition in Berlin.
Kippenberger died of cancer on March 7, 1997 at the age of 44, a year after he married the photographer Elfie Semotan. Right up to the end, he wanted to remain a joker. He once said in an interview, "I'm working so people can say, 'Kippenberger means high spirits.'"
A new exhibition has opened in Berlin featuring the work of the provocative artist Martin Kippenberger, who died in 1997.