Frauen im Leben meines Vaters
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Zentralarchiv des Internationalen Kunsthandels on Its Holdings: “Women in my Father’s Life” – Brigitte Jacobs van Renswou on Martin Kippenberger and Albert Oehlen’s First Exhibition at Erhard Klein, 1983
The artist Martin Kippenberger, who died in 1997 at age 44 and was nicknamed KIPPI, is still today considered a provocateur, enfant terrible, bad boy, rebel. This reputation was based above all on his energy-laden, sometimes quite vociferous appearances and productions that were the stuff of myth and legend. Now, with historical distance, his immense and rich body of artistic work, so rich in variety, is given the proper attention it deserves, ranging from painting, graphic art, and sculpture, to installations, happenings, organizing exhibitions, and book publication, thus using nearly all possibilities of art creation.
And yet, there are repeatedly Kippenberger stories where the figure and his work are closely interwoven. In the late 1970s, Martin Kippenberger, who lived largely in Berlin between 1978 and 1983, invited the Bonn gallerist Erhard Klein to a Berlin bar to convince him to exhibit his works, as Erhard Klein remembers. “We went together to the Paris Bar and Kippenberger chewed my ear off, ‘Erhard, you must exhibit my work, I am the best painter of them all.’ Two hours later, I was happy to get away and when I left, I thought I would never exhibit that guy, never ever.”
The children of the gallerist, who were constantly surrounded by artists, also reacted a bit reticently at first: “He was too radical for them, he played jokes on them, they started to get afraid of him.” Kippenberger might have frightened Erhard Klein at first, but the good contact and the friendships with his artists formed the necessary foundation for his gallery work. Erhard Klein ran his gallery in Bonn from 1970 to 1994 and as of the summer of 1994 in Bad Münstereifel-Mutscheid. From the very start, his main interest was in contemporary German artists like Joseph Beuys, Felix Droese, Georg Herold, Jürgen Klauke, Imi Knoebel, Blinky Palermo, Sigmar Polke, Ulrich Rückriem, and Katharina Sieverding.
What were Kippenberger’s motivations to exhibit his work in petit-bourgeois Bonn at Erhard Klein? Max Hetzler, Kippenberger and Oehlen’s gallerist in Stuttgart around 1982, recalls: “Of course Martin wanted to exhibit next to Beuys, Polke und Palermo. He wanted to have his work compared to them, that’s just where he wanted to be.”
On March 10, 1983, the legendary exhibition of Martin Kippenberger and Albert Oehlen Frauen im Leben meines Vaters (Women in the Life of My Father) took place, a joint edition appeared that was announced as an initiation. We see Albert Oehlen, sitting on the edge of the bathtub reading from a book entitled Frauen im Leben meines Vaters, while Martin Kippenberger is lost in the suds listening to the reader. Martin Kippenberger and Albert Oehlen organized joint exhibitions and expressed their self-conception in numerous texts they wrote together. Their appearance as an artist group (together with Werner Büttner and Martin Oehlen) and the production of joint works in the early 1980s were a medium to establish new painterly positions; art production and lifestyle were narrowly linked to one another. In the isolated Berlin art world, the center of the Neue Wilde, large format, “fierce” painting, that felt linked to the London-based punk movement. In Berlin, Martin Kippenberger had been running the Kippenberger Büro since 1979 together with Gisela Capitain, organizing exhibitions and concerts and working as managing director of the punk Kreuzberg club S.O. 36 for a time.
The start of the exhibition at Erhard Klein was a happening of sorts: a male quartet consisting of Albert Oehlen, Werner Büttner, Martin Kippenberger, and the gallerist Max Hetzler sang the mining song “Glück auf, Glück auf, der Steiger kommt” and Kippenberger and Oehlen posed playfully-provocatively before their joint works.
The collaboration between Erhard Klein and Martin Kippenberger continued with the intertextual word play and language jokes, characteristic for Kippenberger: “What is your favorite minority? Who do you envy most?” (1985). The anecdotal history of his exhibitions emergence, typical of Erhard Klein’s gallery work, also continued here: when in 1986 Martin Kippenberger again wanted to hold an exhibition at Erhard Klein, but the program was already full, then said, “Well, give me the summer slump!” Erhard Klein agreed, and showed the exhibition Martin Kippenberger: Gib mir das Sommerloch (Give Me the Summer Slump!).