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
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: 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.
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.
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.
October 20, 2021–March 7, 2022
Académie des beaux-arts, Paris
Georg Baselitz’s sculpture Zero Dom (2015/2021) is installed in front of the Académie des beaux-arts, Paris, in conjunction with the artist’s retrospective at the Centre Pompidou, which is on view through March 7, 2022, and in celebration of his admission into the Académie des beaux-arts as a foreign associate member. The 9-meter-high patinated bronze sculpture features a bundle of legs in high heels, a recurring motif in the artist’s work, which he sees as a form of self-portrait.
Georg Baselitz, Zero Dom (Zero Dome), 2015/2021, installation view, Académie des beaux-arts, Paris © Georg Baselitz, 2021
October 21–24, 2021, booth B23
Grand Palais Éphémère, Paris
Gagosian is pleased to participate in FIAC 2021 with a presentation of painting, sculpture, and works on paper by gallery artists. The booth will feature works by Georg Baselitz, Edmund de Waal, Helen Frankenthaler, Theaster Gates, Katharina Grosse, Simon Hantaï, Takashi Murakami, Albert Oehlen, Steven Parrino, Auguste Rodin, Sterling Ruby, Setsuko, Jim Shaw, and Cy Twombly, among others. A selection of the works will also appear on gagosian.com and in FIAC’s Online Viewing Room.
Gagosian’s booth at FIAC 2021. Artwork, left to right: © Giuseppe Penone/2021 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris; © Michael Heizer; © Georg Baselitz, 2021; © Pier Paolo Calzolari. Photo: Thomas Lannes
The Art of Wishes 2021
Monday, October 11, 2021
Natural History Museum, London
Founded by philanthropist and Make‐A‐Wish patron Batia Ofer, the Art of Wishes is a charitable initiative that brings the international art community together to raise funds for Make-A-Wish UK, a nonprofit organization that grants the wishes of children with critical illnesses. The fourth annual Art of Wishes benefit auction and gala will take place at the Natural History Museum in London. The auction will be hosted on Artsy, with a preview of the artworks open to the public from October 2 through 8 at Sotheby’s London. More than twenty works by leading international artists such as Georg Baselitz, Jenny Saville, Kon Trubkovich, and others will be included.
Georg Baselitz, Schlafzimmer, 2021 © Georg Baselitz. Photo: Jochen Littkemann
Closing this Week
Vedova accendi la luce
Through October 31, 2021
Fondazione Emilio e Annabianca Vedova, Venice
This exhibition of work by Georg Baselitz, whose title translates to Vedova, turn the light on, includes a series of paintings divided into two sequences. The first part consists of ten canvases dedicated to the artist’s wife, Elke, depicting her as ice cream. The second part comprises seven paintings dedicated to Emilio Vedova, which are, for the most part, monochrome or bicolored; their titles afford the public a glimpse into the relationship between the artist and his longtime friend.
Installation view, Georg Baselitz: Vedova accendi la luce, Fondazione Emilio e Annabianca Vedova, Venice, May 20–October 31, 2021. Artwork © Georg Baselitz, 2021
Through March 7, 2022
Centre Pompidou, Paris
Wavering between figuration, abstraction, and a conceptual approach, Georg Baselitz’s powerful work is inextricably linked to the artist’s imagination and experience, illustrating the complexity of being a painter and an artist in postwar Germany. The exhibition brings together his work from the last six decades in chronological order, exploring his most striking creative periods, including the well-known Fracture paintings and the inverted figures of his iconic upside-down compositions.
Georg Baselitz, Die Mädchen von Olmo II (The Girls of Olmo II), 1981, Centre Pompidou, Paris © Georg Baselitz, 2021. Photo: Centre Pompidou, MNAM–CCI/Bertrand Prévost/Dist. RMN–GP
Donation d’œuvres de Georg Baselitz
Through January 9, 2022
Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris
Donation d’œuvres de Georg Baselitz displays six landmark paintings gifted by the artist to the Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris. Each donated work represents an essential stage within Baselitz’s forty-year career: the tree, which was the subject of his first upside-down image; a “remix” of his 1962–63 painting, Die große Nacht im Eimer (The Big Night Down the Drain); several heads, a favorite subject of the artist from the outset; and finally, a work from the series dedicated to Sigmund Freud.
Georg Baselitz, Tête, 1993, Musee d’Art Moderne de Paris © Georg Baselitz. Photo: Jochen Littkemann
Through November 27, 2022
Museo di Palazzo Grimani, Venice
Archinto presents new and recent paintings and sculptures by Georg Baselitz. Installed on the piano nobile, the exhibition includes twelve paintings made expressly for the Sala del Portego, which hang on eighteenth-century stucco-framed panels where portraits of the Grimani family had been on display until the end of the nineteenth century. In this show, Baselitz pays homage to Venice and its rich artistic tradition, establishing art historical continuity while also signaling a rupture between the Renaissance portrait tradition and its contemporary equivalents. The exhibition is curated by Mario Codognato and organized by Venetian Heritage and Direzione regionale Musei Veneto, in association with Gagosian.
Georg Baselitz, Jorn, 2020 © Georg Baselitz. Photo: Jochen Littkemann