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.
Fairs, Events & Announcements
Artist Plate Project 2023
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
January 12–15, 2023, booth BF05
Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre, Singapore
Gagosian is pleased to announce the gallery’s participation in the inaugural edition of ART SG, with a selection of works by international contemporary artists including Banksy, Georg Baselitz, Ashley Bickerton, Edmund de Waal, Helen Frankenthaler, Katharina Grosse, Mark Grotjahn, Damien Hirst, Howard Hodgkin, Thomas Houseago, Tetsuya Ishida, Alex Israel, Jia Aili, Harmony Korine, Takashi Murakami, Nam June Paik, Giuseppe Penone, Ed Ruscha, Spencer Sweeney, Sarah Sze, Tatiana Trouvé, Anna Weyant, Jonas Wood, and Zeng Fanzhi.
Gagosian’s booth at ART SG 2023. Artwork, left to right: © Ashley Bickerton; © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2022; © Banksy; © Zeng Fanzhi; © 2020 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All rights reserved. Photo: Sebastiano Pellion di Persano
Opening this Week
June 7–September 17, 2023
This exhibition, whose title translates to 100 Drawings, celebrates Georg Baselitz’s gift of fifty drawings to both the Morgan Library & Museum in New York and the Albertina in Vienna. Shown together, the works present a retrospective of Baselitz’s artistic development and highlight the central role that drawing plays in his practice. This exhibition has traveled from the Morgan Library, under the title Six Decades of Drawings.
Georg Baselitz, Der moderne Maler, 1965 © Georg Baselitz 2023
Through June 25, 2023
Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, Vienna
This exhibition, whose title translates to Naked Masters, places works by Georg Baselitz alongside historical paintings of nude figures from the Kunsthistorisches Museum’s collection. This juxtaposition aims to reveal insights into the history of nude portraiture as well as the currency that painting itself still has. Baselitz selected the works himself—nearly eighty of his own and forty from the collection, including paintings by Hans Baldung Grien, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Peter Paul Rubens, and Titian.
Installation view, Georg Baselitz: Nackte Meister, Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, Vienna, March 7–June 25, 2023. Artwork © Georg Baselitz 2023. Photo: © KHM-Museumsverband
Georg Baselitz zum 85. Geburtstag
Through July 16, 2023
Museum Würth 2, Künzelsau, Germany
This exhibition marks the occasion of Georg Baselitz’s eighty-fifth birthday by presenting a selection of his graphic art, paintings, and sculptures in the Museum Würth’s atrium. Since the mid-1960s, Baselitz has experimented intensively with various printmaking techniques. This show brings together more than fifty works by the artist from the Würth Collection, including eighteen monumental linocuts made between 1977 and 1979.
Georg Baselitz’s Yellow Song (2013; left) and BDM Gruppe (2012; right) installed outside Museum Würth 2, Künzelsau, Germany. Artwork © Georg Baselitz 2023
Baselitz im Atelier
Open from April 7, 2023
Kunstmuseum Schloss Derneburg, Germany
Schloss Derneburg was Georg Baselitz’s home and studio for more than three decades until its sale to Andy and Christine Hall, founders of the Hall Art Foundation, in 2006. This exhibition, whose title translates to Baselitz in the Studio, includes some two dozen paintings and one sculpture that were completed between 1998 and 2005 and are among the last works the artist made in this studio. This is the first in a series of Baselitz exhibitions drawn from the Hall Collection that will be presented on the occasion of the artist’s eighty-fifth birthday.
Installation view, Baselitz im Atelier, Kunstmuseum Schloss Derneburg, Germany, open from April 7, 2023. Artwork © Georg Baselitz 2023. Photo: Roman März, courtesy Hall Art Foundation