Critics’ Picks

Memphis Schulze (with Sigmar Polke and wedding guests) Hochzeitsbild (Wedding Picture), 1977, casein, spray paint on paper on untreated cotton cloth, 90 1/2 x 110 1/4".


“Singular/Plural: Collaborations in the Post-Pop-Polit-Arena”

Kunsthalle Düsseldorf
Grabbeplatz 4
July 8 - October 1

Sigmar Polke was once a beautiful mermaid with a tail made of snakeskin-patterned fabric. In a photograph by Bernd Jansen from 1973, this iconic figure of postwar German art is seen sprawled across a floral carpet in a gentle curve that complements his reverie. Staged at Willich, near Düsseldorf, where Polke lived and produced work collectively with artists including Mariette Althaus and Achim Duchow (sometimes under the name “Polke, Duchow & Co.”), this mise-en-scène captures the gender-defying, psychedelically inclined, and communally driven young art scene of Düsseldorf’s punk 1970s—the subject of Kunsthalle Düsseldorf’s fiftieth-anniversary exhibition.

This meticulously researched show boasts ample archival material (especially coproduced zines and publications) and period ephemera, alongside works by both the better- and lesser known members of the city’s avant-garde. For instance, a single photographic plate from Candida Höfer’s August Sander-esque “Volksgarten Köln (Türken in Deutschland)” (Volksgarten Cologne [Turks in Germany]) series, 1973–79, showing Turkish gastarbeiterinnen (female migrant workers) picnicking, stands next to a monumental, “participatory” work on paper with fantastical comic-book characters that Memphis Schulze and Polke painted with the help of Schulze’s wedding guests (Hochzeitsbild, 1977). Both face a large photomontage where Katharina Sieverding quite literally—but most subjectively—takes stock of the Düsseldorf scene (Düsseldorfer Scene [Schenkung Nr. 142], 1974) by arranging twelve close-cropped individual portraits of nine artists in rows, including some of the most well-known names from the city today, such as Polke, Höfer, and Blinky Palermo. A particular highlight is Christof Kohlhöfer’s ludic spray-paint-on-paper posters, made from 1974 to 1976, advertising the menu and parties at Ratinger Hof: Here, in a pungent palette of pinks, greens, and yellows, Japanese men vomit, crocodiles waltz, and a woman in a cabaret costume falls prey to a lion.