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 so-called “Pandemonic Manifestos” (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 (The 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)—portray figures 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 art 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 für 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 2018 a large retrospective of Baselitz’s work was presented at the Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, Switzerland, and at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC.
Photo: Elke Baselitz
Extended through March 23, 2019
January 24–March 23, 2019
555 West 24th Street, New York
Georg Baselitz: Archinto
On the occasion of Georg Baselitz: Archinto at Museo di Palazzo Grimani, Venice, Artcore Films produced a short documentary featuring the artist. In the video, Baselitz details the origins of the project, how he approached the unique space, and his experiments in process and technique.
Baselitz: La rétrospective
Richard Calvocoressi visits Georg Baselitz’s retrospective exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Paris and reflects on both the historical specificity and timeless themes of the artist’s sixty-year career.
Georg Baselitz: Pulling Up the Image
In celebration of five recent projects related to Georg Baselitz, Richard Calvocoressi, Max Hollein, and Katy Siegel speak with the artist and look at his prolific career.
Gagosian Quarterly Fall 2021
The Fall 2021 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available, featuring Damien Hirst’s Reclining Woman (2011) on its cover.
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.
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: Life, Love, Death
Richard Calvocoressi writes on the painter’s latest bodies of work, detailing the techniques employed and their historical precedents.
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.
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.
Frieze Seoul 2023
September 7–9, 2023, booth C14
Gagosian is pleased to participate in Frieze Seoul 2023 with a presentation of contemporary works by gallery artists, including Derrick Adams, Georg Baselitz, Dan Colen, Edmund de Waal, Jadé Fadojutimi, Urs Fischer, Cy Gavin, Mehdi Ghadyanloo, Nan Goldin, Katharina Grosse, Jennifer Guidi, Thomas Houseago, Alex Israel, Rick Lowe, Takashi Murakami, Nam June Paik, Giuseppe Penone, Ed Ruscha, Alexandria Smith, Anna Weyant, Stanley Whitney, Jonas Wood, and Richard Wright, among others.
Coinciding with the fair is the arrival of Jiyoung Lee, who was recently appointed to lead the gallery’s operations in Korea. Lee joins Gagosian following nearly fifteen years based in Seoul working on behalf of both Korean and Western galleries. Her appointment builds on the gallery’s establishment of a business entity in Korea last year, and provides for expanded activities in the region.
Gagosian’s booth at Frieze Seoul 2023. Artwork, left to right: © Jadé Fadojutimi, © Jen Guidi, © Alexandria Smith, © Mehdi Ghadyanloo, © Rick Lowe Studio, © Jonas Wood, Photo: Sebastiano Pellion di Persano
Artist Plate Project 2022
Coalition for the Homeless
Launching May 22, 2023, 10am edt
Limited-edition bone china plates produced by Prospect and featuring artwork by more than forty artists—including Virgil Abloh, Derrick Adams, Harold Ancart, Georg Baselitz, Amoako Boafo, Mark Grotjahn, Takashi Murakami, Albert Oehlen, Ed Ruscha, Anna Weyant, and Jonas Wood—will be sold through Artware Editions to raise funds for the Coalition’s lifesaving programs. The funds raised by the sale of the plates will provide food, crisis services, housing, and other critical aid to thousands of people experiencing homelessness and instability. The purchase of one plate can feed one hundred homeless and hungry New Yorkers.
Takashi Murakami, Gargantua on Your Palm, 2018 © 2018 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All rights reserved
Art Basel Hong Kong 2023
March 22–25, 2023
Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre
Gagosian is pleased to participate in Art Basel Hong Kong 2023 with a presentation of modern and contemporary works by international artists.
Jadé Fadojutimi, As usual, the season’s showers tend to linger, 2023 © Jadé Fadojutimi
Opening this Week
October 5, 2023–January 7, 2024
Serpentine Galleries, London
Featuring works selected with Georg Baselitz and taken directly from his studio, this exhibition presents never-before-seen towering wood sculptures alongside loose, inky drawings. The sculptures were not originally intended for public view; they were made as maquettes in preparation for bronze works. Each sculpture originated as a single tree trunk, which Baselitz carved down using power saws, axes, and chisels. The exhibition provides new insights into the artist’s process, and how his works inform one another across different mediums.
Georg Baselitz, Sing Sang Zero, 2011 © Georg Baselitz 2023. Photo: Jochen Littkemann
El eco de Picasso
Through March 31, 2024
Museo Picasso Málaga, Spain
Organized as part of Picasso Celebration 1973–2023, a series of international exhibitions and events commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of Pablo Picasso’s death, The Echo of Picasso focuses on his influence on twentieth-century art. The exhibition places Picasso’s practice in dialogue with work by more than fifty artists, including Francis Bacon, Georg Baselitz, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Willem de Kooning, Thomas Houseago, Ewa Juszkiewicz, Richard Prince, Nathaniel Mary Quinn, Cy Twombly, Tom Wesselmann, and Franz West.
Richard Prince, Untitled (Picasso), 2011, Fundación Almine y Bernard Ruiz-Picasso, Madrid © Richard Prince. Photo: Pablo Asenjo
Dix und die Gegenwart
Through February 25, 2024
Deichtorhallen Hamburg, Germany
This exhibition, whose title translates to Dix and the Present, explores the work of Otto Dix (1891–1969) and the artist’s enduring influence. It focuses on the ostensibly apolitical work Dix created beginning in 1933, which was less aggressive than his radical and provocative paintings of the 1920s. His Nazi-era landscapes, commissioned portraits, and Christian allegories were instead subtle and subversive forms of contemporary social critique. The exhibition aims to reveal the shifting cultural and social parameters in the reception of Dix’s art, while also demonstrating how his oeuvre continues to fascinate more than forty contemporary artists. Work by Georg Baselitz, Glenn Brown, John Currin, Nan Goldin, and Anselm Kiefer is included.
Glenn Brown, The Holy Bible, 2022 © Glenn Brown
Georg Baselitz zum 85. Geburtstag
Through October 22, 2023
Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich
Malelade is an artist’s book by Georg Baselitz that includes forty-one large-format drypoint engravings. This exhibition, whose subtitle translates to Georg Baselitz on His 85th Birthday, displays the 148 test prints produced ahead of the book and celebrates the artist’s momentous birthday. The prints provide insight into the work’s genesis and Baselitz’s creative process, which varies from sheet to sheet.
Installation view, Malelade: Georg Baselitz zum 85. Geburtstag, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich, August 30–October 22, 2023. Artwork © Georg Baselitz 2023. Photo: Zeynep Oktay/PIN