Art scene in the 60s

Sigmar Polke studied at the Düsseldorf Art Academy in the early 1960s. He was part of the legendary class of Karl Otto Götz, which also included Gerhard Richter, Konrad Lueg and Manfred Kuttner. With this circle of like-minded ones he founded “capitalistic realism” in 1963.


The movement was close to Pop Art and was an ironic dissociation from “Socialist Realism”, from whose sphere of influence the four students had originally fled. Polke and Richter were close friends during their studies, organized a joint exhibition in 1966. For the artist book, they even took pictures together in the bathtub. It should stay at this one joint exhibition. The paths diverged in the future: Polke was wilder and worked more experimental, Richter painted systematically in large groups of works.


Polke also attended lectures in Düsseldorf by Joseph Beuys. In the only big interview ever given by Polke, the bizarre Fluxus actions came to mind when he talked about the ’60s: he sat under the table and bit the passers-by in the leg, his friend Blinky Palermo smashed eggs over his bald head. At that time Dusseldorf was the stronghold of the German art scene, the stronghold of rebellion against bourgeois conservatism of the postwar period. Beuys hosted the Fluxus Festival with George Maciunas and Nam June Paik, and bands such as Kraftwerk played in the cult pub “Creamcheese”. Zero artists Otto Piene, Günther Uecker and Heinz Mack were also in town. Pop, Fluxus and Zero merge in “Paris am Rhein” to the creative breeding ground of Sigmar Polke.


Sigmar Polke

In the early 1970s Polke moved to Willich on the Gaspelhof. The “hippies from Düsseldorf” lived and painted here together. For many of the works of art that were created here, it is not clear who painted them at all.


Only that much is certain: Polke was almost always involved. The attraction of the creative center Gaspelhof went far beyond the Düsseldorf scene: Carl Andre, one of the founding fathers of Minimal Art, visited the place as did performance-art stars Gilbert & George. Even the younger Martin Kippenberger, who was still studying in Hamburg when Polke was already a lecturer there, was a welcome guest on the Gaspelhof.

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