Spotlight: At 80, the German Neo-Expressionist Markus Lüpertz Is Still Inventing and Experimenting

A retrospective of the artist's work just opened at the Moscow Museum of Modern Art.

Markus Lüpertz. Photograph by Andrea Stappert.
Markus Lüpertz. Photograph by Andrea Stappert.

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About the Artist: Over his career, 80-year-old Neo-Expressionist artist Markus Lüpertz has explored a painterly style that blends abstractions with bursts of figuration, focusing on singular elements. Born in Liberec, in what is now the Czech Republic, Lüpertz developed his unique visual language in Berlin alongside artists such as Georg Baselitz, A.R. Penck, and Jörg Immendorff. His was one that sought a more expressive, emotional language, seeking a predecessor in the oeuvre of Francis Picabia.

The artist, who is represented by Galerie Michael Werner, is currently the subject of a comprehensive exhibition, “Small Irrational Retrospective Under the Guidance of the Artist,” at the Museum of Modern Art Moscow. The exhibition works from the 1960s to the most recent works created in 2021. 

Installation view "Markus Lüpertz." Courtesy of Moscow Museum of Modern Art 2021. Galerie Michael Werner.

Installation view “Markus Lüpertz.” Courtesy of Moscow Museum of Modern Art 2021. Galerie Michael Werner.

Why We Like It: Some 50 years into his career, Lüpertz continues to experiment: the artist recently made his debut with set designs at Staatstheater Meiningen for Giacomo Puccini’s La Bohème. The exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art Moscow brings together over 100 paintings and a selection of sculptures in the artist’s first major solo exhibition in Moscow and his second in Russia after his 2014 exhibition at the Hermitage St. Petersburg. The exhibition features works from the artist’s 48-part series “Alice in Wonderland” (ca. 1980–81) with paintings that incorporate fragments of dialogue from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Other highlights of the exhibition include his influential large-format, multi-part works such as Track – Dithyrambic (1968) and Quilt–Dithyrambic (1967). 

What the Curator Says: “Like some of his other compatriots, Lüpertz finds his own lingua antiqua in German Expressionism. It is easy to recognize the influence of Max Beckmann and Wilhelm Lehmbruck in his work. Ancient Greek culture and almost cartoonish, Disney-ish grotesque plastic, mutating, chaotic shapes and shimmering figures, Alice in Wonderland, and antique geometry—all these elements meet and coexist in Lüpertz’s canvases. His controversial, sometimes uncomfortable works are devoted to thinking about the same persistently emerging circle of questions on the nature of the pictorial image, on the artist’s role and on the place of the past in the present as well as in the future,” wrote Vasili Tsereteli, the director of the Moscow Museum of Modern Art.  

Browse works by the artist below.

Markus Lüpertz, Babylon-Dithyrambic VI (1975). Courtesy of Galerie Michael Werner.

Markus Lüpertz, Babylon-Dithyrambic VI (1975). Courtesy of Galerie Michael Werner.

 

Markus Lüpertz, Arrangement for a cap - Dithyrambic V, 1973 VI (1975). Courtesy of Galerie Michael Werner. © Markus Lüpertz.

Markus Lüpertz, Arrangement for a cap—Dithyrambic (1973). Courtesy of Galerie Michael Werner. © Markus Lüpertz.

 

Markus Lüpertz, German Motif - Dithyrambic II (1972). Courtesy of Galerie Michael Werner. © Markus Lüpertz.

Markus Lüpertz, German Motif – Dithyrambic II (1972). Courtesy of Galerie Michael Werner. © Markus Lüpertz.

 

Markus Lüpertz, Dithyramb (1964). Courtesy of Galerie Michael Werner. © Markus Lüpertz.

Markus Lüpertz, Dithyramb (1964). Courtesy of Galerie Michael Werner. © Markus Lüpertz.

“Small Irrational Retrospective Under the Guidance of the Artist” will be on view at the Museum of Modern Art Moscow until April 3, 2022.


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