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Kippenberger: The Artist and His Families

Martin Kippenberger painting at his family’s home in Essen, Germany, 1960. Photo: Ilse Pässler.

Kippenberger: The Artist and His Families, by Susanne Kippenberger, translated by Damion Searls. Atlanta: J&L Books, 2012. 592 pages.

ON ONE OF MY FIRST VISITS TO COLOGNE, over supper and Kölsch, an older friend told me how he once reverentially brought Martin Kippenberger a bottle of liquor as a gift. And how did Kippenberger like it? No, my friend explained, he didn’t go meet him. Perhaps he didn’t dare. He put the booze in a locker at the train station, and mailed Herr Kippenberger the key.

True or embellished, this tale has stuck with me for something it typifies about my generation’s relation to the Kippenberger myth. And myth, of course, it is. Often brandished as a point of reference, he’s not as often understood. For American art students in the 1990s such as myself, Kippenberger seemed to disappear into his own reputation, leaving a trail of bread crumbs, nourishing but

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