Martin Kippenberger's Painting That Epitomizes Human's Fragility

Phillips’ 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale will be held in London towards the end of this month. The highly anticipated sale features 31 lots spanning 9 decades, including artworks from the German artist Martin Kippenberger, the Irish figurative painter Francis Bacon and the highest grossing American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. Let’s take a look at the top lot of the sale – Martin Kippenberger’s Ohne Titel (aus der Serie Das Floß der Medusa).

Théodore Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa

Ohne Titel (aus der Serie Das Floß der Medusa), painted in 1996, came directly from the collection of Marcel Brient, Paris. It is one of the last masterpieces that Kippenberger created in part of his homage to Théodore Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa. The series encompasses 26 paintings in addition to photographs, sketches, lithographs and a woven rug. Other works from this series are included in prominent international collections including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and The Friedrich Christian Flick Collection.

A closer look at Théodore Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa

The inspiration came from Théodore Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa, which depicts the plight of distressed survivors clinging to a raft after the historic sinking of the frigate Méduse on 2 July 1816. Kippenberger staged a photo-shoot in his studio with his photographer wife, Elfie Semotan, producing frightful photographs of the artist in various dramatic poses mimicking the raft survivors and corpses.

The present masterpiece is a self-portrait, painted whilst Kippenberger had liver cancer and was refusing treatment. The painting shows the artist’s body laying elegantly reclined, his soul departing his still body. Allowing his body to be assumed by the dark blue passage to the left of the composition and his hand to trail into the unknown, Kippenberger conveys the fragility of his expiring body. The artist’s fragmented figure, is a representation of his battle against mortality. He portrays himself as a victim, a haunted and sad subject.

Kippenberger's untitled self-portrait sold for US$22million at Christie’s in 2014

With an estimate on request, the self-portrait is expected to reach an extraordinary price. Kippenberger's self-portraits have in the past achieved high prices. His 1988 untitled self-portrait was sold at Christie’s New York for over US$22m in 2014 to dealer Larry Gagosian, breaking Kippenberger’s auction record.


Lot information

Martin Kippenberger. Ohne Titel (aus der Serie Das Floß der Medusa).

Lot no.: 8
Painted in: 1996
Size: 150 x 180 cm

  • Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne
  • Galerie Samia Saouma, Paris
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1998

Estimate on request

Auction details

Auction house: Phillips London
Sale: 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale
Lots offered: 31
2018/6/18 - 27
Monday - Saturday|10am - 6pm
Sunday|12pm - 6pm
2018/6/27 |7pm