On occasion of his eightieth birthday, the Kunstmuseum Basel
honors Georg Baselitz (b. Jan 23, 1938), one of the most distinguished figures in German postwar art. Concurrent with a focused retrospective of his oeuvre at the Fondation Beyeler, this exhibition showcases a representative survey of his drawings and colored graphic art from the museums Kupferstichkabinett (Department of Prints and Drawings).
Baselitz was trained as a painter at the Academies of Arts in East and West Berlin. In the context of German postwar arts stern emphasis on abstraction, his insistence on a highly expressive and realistic figuration could not but be perceived as a provocation.
Baselitzs meteoric career took off in the mid-1960s, when he painted pictures that scandalized critics and audiences and published hallucinatory Pandemonic Manifestos. He cultivated his public image and featured new heroes in his work. This process culminated in his decision, in 1969, to turn his pictures upside down, a simple act that stripped them of their conventional content. Confronting the beholders eye with color and form as such without distracting it with subject matter, the inverted canvases were a way for the painter to avoid abandoning figuration altogether.
Older and new works
The evolution of Baselitzs art is especially evident in his drawings, which show him developing his ideas in an intuitive and unrestrained creative flow. His most recent works are characterized by his limber mastery of the medium and bear witness to his musings on mortality, but also look back on his own large and multifaceted oeuvre. He revisits central themes in his paintings and crucial sources of inspiration such as Marcel Duchamp.
The longstanding friendship between Baselitz and the Kunstmuseum Basel goes back to 1970, when Dieter Koepplin, then the director of the Kupferstichkabinett, boosted the 32-year-old artists career by organizing a first exhibition of his drawings. Twenty-five sheets from the show entered the museums holdings, the basis of a collection enlarged in the 1980s by the addition of outstanding works in connection with the e exhibition Georg Baselitz. Drawings 19581983. The artist, for his part, complemented these and subsequent acquisitions by generously donating several works, helping the museum build a well-rounded collection of his art.
The Kupferstichkabinett now has a sizable ensemble of 152 of Baselitzs finest drawings and watercolors. The exhibition presents a selection of ca. 88 works from the museums holdings as well as 15 more recent pieces on loan from the artist.