Markus Lüpertz Gets First U.S. Retrospective
Andy Battaglia
16 January 2017

Marking a momentous move for the 75-year-old German artist Markus Lüpertz —and the first-ever formal collaboration between two institutions with weight in Washington, D.C.—a pair of exhibitions on the neo-expressionist painter will open this spring at the Phillips Collection and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. The shows will run in tandem beginning in late May, with a shared subject but different points of emphasis.

“Markus Lüpertz: Threads of History” opens May 24 at the Hirshhorn with a focus on the early years, from 1962 to 1975, when Lüpertz worked in the shadow of World War II alongside peers like Georg Baselitz, Gerhard Richter, Anselm Kiefer, A.R. Penck, and Sigmar Polke. At the Phillips Collection, “Markus Lupertz” will take a wider career-spanning view, from the ’60s to the present. A catalog will be published by Sieveking Verlag in Germany to accompany the first comprehensive treatment of Lüpertz in the U.S.

“Every step of the way we have been working together,” Phillips Collection Director Dorothy Kosinski told ARTnews. “Lüpertz is a prolific artist who lives for artmaking, as a painter, printmaker, sculptor, set designer, poet, and provocateur. The two exhibitions will allow us to do a better and more thorough job of making his work available and understandable.”

The partnership arose through a confluence of interests, with both institutions invested in Lüpertz and an early awareness that turned into an opportunity to pool resources and curatorial expertise, said Hirshhorn Director Melissa Chiu. “At this moment in time, we’re very interested in history,” Chiu said. “Some of the themes he addresses are war and conflict and how society deals with that, and there’s a strong sense that it’s timely to talk about that history. It’s a major scholarly undertaking with curatorial discussion about different facets that we deal with respectively.”

Gordon VeneKlasen, a partner at Michael Werner Gallery—which will open a Lüpertz show in New York around the same time as the exhibitions in Washington—ranked the artist among the best of those “pure painters who were part of the generation who came of age in broken Germany and found their own visual language.” To Lüpertz in particular, he attributed a special “level of invention that has happened consistently now for 50 years.”

Kosinski said the nature of the work and the collaboration to bring it into wider view suits the artist and her institution both. “Duncan Phillips in the ’20s called us an intimate museum combined with an experiment station,” she said, “and it’s great to have permission to be experimental.”