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Sigmar Polke

I FIRST MET SIGMAR POLKE in the 1970s—a decade that has been dealt with too summarily in most of his retrospectives to date, since the prevailing opinion has been that the artist spent these years devoting himself to almost anything but painting: photography, film, travel, experiments in collective living, and other consciousness-expanding activities. But shortly before his death at age sixty-nine in June of this year, an extraordinary exhibition at the Hamburger Kunsthalle—organized by Petra Lange-Berndt, Dietmar Rübel, and Dorothee Böhm—offered a finely articulated, revisionist look at his ’70s production. Titled “Wir Kleinbürger!” (We Petty Bourgeois!), the show brought together a vast trove of documentation, artifacts, and artworks, both by Polke and by a number of artists to whom he was close. In addition to a profusion of photographs (which he also often sent in packets

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