This idea of “looking toward the future” is nonsense. I realized that simply going backwards is better. You stand in the rear of the train—looking at the tracks flying back below—or you stand at the stern of a boat and look back—looking back at what’s gone.
German painter, printmaker, and sculptor Georg Baselitz is a pioneering postwar artist who rejected abstraction in favor of recognizable subject matter, deliberately employing a raw style of rendering and a heightened palette in order to convey direct emotion. Embracing the German Expressionism that had been denounced by the Nazis, Baselitz returned the human figure to a central position in painting.
Born Hans-Georg Kern in Deutschbaselitz, Saxony, Germany, Baselitz attended the Hochschule für Bildende und Angewandte Kunst in East Berlin, from which he was expelled in 1957 for “sociopolitical immaturity.” He then moved to West Berlin, where he attended the Hochschule der Künste and completed his postgraduate studies in 1962. It was during this time that he changed his surname to Baselitz. From his youth, Baselitz had been interested in the German Expressionists’ use of “primitive” sources such as folk art, children’s art, and art of the mentally ill. To assert his independence from popular art of the postwar years, Baselitz and fellow artist Eugen Schönebeck wrote the manifesto “Pandemonium” (1960–62), a violent and shocking expression of the frustration of working in postwar Germany. In 1963 Baselitz had his first solo exhibition, which was an immediate scandal: the painting Die große Nacht im Eimer (Big Night Down the Drain) (1962–63), depicting a distorted figure holding an oversized phallus, was removed from the exhibition due to charges of obscenity and not returned to Baselitz until the conclusion of a lengthy trial. In 1965 Baselitz turned to the subject of “heroes.” Painted in thick impasto, the Helden (Heroes) (1965–66)—also known as the Neue Typen (New Types or New Guys)—portray men standing within natural landscapes. Disheveled and fragmented, these war-torn figures elicit an emotional response in the viewer as they evoke the events of recent history.
In 1969 Baselitz began to paint and display his subjects upside down in order to slow down his process of painting as well as the viewer’s comprehension of the motif. These iconic paintings, depicting inverted figures, landscapes, and still lifes, achieve a form of abstraction while maintaining figuration. Through the 1980s, his work took on an added density as he further employed a wide range of formal and historical references, including the paintings of Edvard Munch and Emil Nolde. Concurrently, he began creating large-scale sculptures made of painted wood, presenting these works for the first time at the 1980 Biennale di Venezia, where he showed Modell fur eine Skulptur (Model for a Sculpture) (1979–80).
The paintings that Baselitz produced between 1990 and 2010 marked another shift in his practice, displaying a more linear and abstract approach to the figure. In the Remix series (2005–08), Baselitz revisited his earlier works, graphically re-presenting his prior subjects such that their subtle meanings and technical innovations were made more explicit. In 2015 Baselitz’s Avignon (2014) paintings—a suite of eight towering nude self-portraits—were featured in the Biennale di Venezia. The following year related self-portraits with spectral figures were presented at Gagosian, West 21st Street, New York. In 2017–18 a large retrospective of Baselitz’s work was presented at the Fondation Beyeler, Riehen, Switzerland, and at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC.
Photo: Elke Baselitz
May 21–August 8, 2020
March 12–May 2, 2020
Extended through March 23, 2019
January 24–March 23, 2019
555 West 24th Street, New York
Recent Works on Paper
February 8–March 24, 2017
Jumping Over My Shadow
September 20–October 29, 2016
West 21st Street, New York
Visit from Hokusai
January 21–March 18, 2016
Visit from Hokusai
November 7–December 19, 2015
980 Madison Avenue, New York
February 13–March 29, 2014
Britannia Street, London
Gagosian Quarterly Summer 2020
The Summer 2020 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available, featuring Joan Jonas’s Mirror Piece 1 (1969) on its cover.
Artist to Artist: Georg Baselitz and Zeng Fanzhi
On the occasion of Georg Baselitz: Years later at Gagosian, Hong Kong, Zeng Fanzhi composed a written foreword for the exhibition’s catalogue and a video message to the German painter. Baselitz wrote a letter of thanks to the Chinese artist for his insightful thoughts.
Georg Baselitz: What if...
Richard Calvocoressi narrates a tour of an exhibition of new paintings by Georg Baselitz in San Francisco, describing the visual effect of these luminous compositions and explaining their relationship to earlier works by the artist.
Georg Baselitz: Life, Love, Death
Richard Calvocoressi writes on the painter’s latest bodies of work, detailing the techniques employed and their historical precedents.
On the occasion of a career-spanning exhibition at the Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice, Richard Calvocoressi tracks the evolution of Georg Baselitz’s development from his early education in East Germany to his revelatory trip to Florence, in 1965, and beyond.
Visions of the Self: Jenny Saville on Rembrandt
Jenny Saville reveals the process behind her new self-portrait, painted in response to Rembrandt’s masterpiece Self-Portrait with Two Circles.
Gagosian Quarterly Summer 2019
The Summer 2019 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available, featuring a detail from Afrylic by Ellen Gallagher on its cover.
Georg Baselitz speaks with Sir Norman Rosenthal on the subject of his latest work. The two discuss these paintings, all depictions of self-portraits by artists from the past and present, and what it means to pay homage.
Morgan Falconer visits the artist’s studio outside Munich to learn more about his newest paintings, a series entitled Devotion.
Gagosian Quarterly Spring 2019
The Spring 2019 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available, featuring Red Pot with Lute Player #2 by Jonas Wood on its cover.
Georg Baselitz: Years later is available for online reading from May 18 through August 8 as part of the From the Library series. The book documents an exhibition of new paintings and works on paper by Baselitz opening at Gagosian in Hong Kong on May 21, the first show to open to the public within our international network of galleries since the global COVID-19 lockdown. The bilingual English-Chinese publication includes a foreword by Zeng Fanzhi and essay by Lu Mingjun.
Georg Baselitz: Years later (New York: Gagosian, 2020)
Art Basel Hong Kong Online
March 20–25, 2020
Works by Georg Baselitz, Jennifer Guidi, Tetsuya Ishida, Jia Aili, Takashi Murakami, Mary Weatherford, Tom Wesselmann, and Zeng Fanzhi were available exclusively online. The selection was also on view in the Art Basel Hong Kong Online Viewing Rooms, accessible through artbasel.com and the Art Basel app.
Takashi Murakami, Kiki, 2018–20 © 2020 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All rights reserved
Visions of the Self
Rembrandt and Now
Tuesday, March 17, 2020, 6:30–8:30pm
Kenwood House, London
In the interest of public health, this event has been postponed until further notice.
Gagosian is pleased to host a drinks reception to celebrate the release of Visions of the Self: Rembrandt and Now, published on the occasion of the recent eponymous exhibition at Gagosian, Grosvenor Hill, London. Organized in partnership with English Heritage, the exhibition places Rembrandt’s masterpiece Self-Portrait with Two Circles (c. 1665) in dialogue with self-portraits by Francis Bacon, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Lucian Freud, and Pablo Picasso, as well as leading contemporary artists such as Georg Baselitz, Glenn Brown, Urs Fischer, Damien Hirst, Howard Hodgkin, Giuseppe Penone, Richard Prince, Jenny Saville, Cindy Sherman, and Rudolf Stingel, among others. The catalogue includes an introduction by Wendy Monkhouse, senior curator at English Heritage, and a text by art historian David Freedberg. To attend the free event, RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org. Space is limited.
Visions of the Self: Rembrandt and Now (London: Gagosian, 2020)
October 26, 2019–May 4, 2020
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Through five thematic groupings, this exhibition seeks to rethink the stories that can be told with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston’s collection of contemporary art. The groupings address a range of topics, including artistic process and complex relationships between humans and the natural world, the body, materials, identity, and notions of utopia. Work by Georg Baselitz, Helen Frankenthaler, and Andy Warhol is included.
Installation view, Contemporary Art: Five Propositions, Museum of Fine Art, Boston, October 26, 2019–May 4, 2020
Die jungen Jahre der Alten Meister
September 13, 2019–January 5, 2020
Deichtorhallen Hamburg, Germany
Anselm Kiefer, Wege, 1977–80 © Anselm Kiefer. Photo: Charles Duprat
Emilio Vedova di/by Georg Baselitz
April 18–November 3, 2019
Fondazione Emilio e Annabianca Vedova, Venice
To celebrate the centenary of the birth of Emilio Vedova, Georg Baselitz has curated an exhibition of works by the Italian artist. The show presents two series of black-and-white works on canvas that mark significant moments in Vedova’s long and complex artistic career.
Emilio Vedova and Georg Baselitz at documenta 7, Kassel, Germany, 1982. Photo: Benjamin Katz
Baselitz – Academy
May 8–October 6, 2019
Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice
Baselitz – Academy, a major retrospective of works by Georg Baselitz curated by Kosme de Barañano, is the first exhibition by a living artist at the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice. The exhibition traces the critical junctures in the artist’s extraordinary sixty-year career through paintings, drawings, prints, and sculptures, including rarely seen works exploring the artist’s relationship with Italy and the academic tradition. Two monumental works created specifically for this show are also on view. This is a Collateral Event of the 58th International Art Exhibition La Biennale di Venezia, organized with support from Gagosian.
Georg Baselitz, Schlafzimmer (Bedroom), 1975 © Georg Baselitz. Photo: Jochen Littkemann