To coincide with Georg Baselitz’s 80th birthday, the Musée Unterlinden is devoting a major exhibition to the German artist, running from 9 June to 29 October 2018.
The event in Colmar, entitled Corpus Baselitz, will mark the first exhibition in a French museum of a new and significant body of works (paintings, drawings and sculptures) produced between 2014 and 2017, in which the artist examines his own body, and through it, his place in the history of art.
Since his first inverted paintings of 1969, the representation of his own body has proliferated in Baselitz’s work with varying degrees of regularity, either alone or accompanied by the body of his wife Elke, in the tradition of the nude and the self-portrait.
Whilst his gaze was previously that of a distant observer, in the series of works that he began in the winter of 2014-2015, he confronts the reality of his advanced years and the ravages of time. In this introspective work, he summons up his masters (Duchamp, Dubuffet, Dix, Picasso or De Kooning) for what resembles a descent into hell.
The mutilated, incomplete and fragmented body is uncompromisingly displayed, yet the violence of the subject of old age is counterbalanced by the movement of walking downstairs (a reference to Duchamp’s 1912 work Nude Descending a Staircase), which the inversion transforms into an upward movement. The generosity of the medium and a new painting technique transfigure the bodies, which become luminescent and vibrant.
The obsession with the subject of his body stripped bare explored by Baselitz on the cusp of his eightieth birthday and the transmutation of this black vision into a vigorous, generous representation offered up to the public demonstrate the artist’s unwavering vital and creative energy.
The subject, the form (sometimes drawing upon medieval triptychs), the monumentality, the physical substance and the colour of the German artist’s works resonate like a contemporary echo of Grünewald’s panels in the Isenheim Altarpiece, the masterpiece of the Musée Unterlinden’s collections.
The exhibition constitutes an exceptional and unique tribute to a major contemporary artist, following on from the retrospective of his work being held at the Beyeler Foundation near Basel from January to May 2018.
Curator of the exhibition:
Frédérique Goerig-Hergott, senior curator, Musée Unterlinden