Sigmar Polke (German, 1941–2010) was a painter, photographer, and printmaker one of the founders of the Capitalist Realist movement in the 1960s. Polke was born in Olesnica, in present-day Poland, and in 1953 moved to Willich, Germany, where he apprenticed as a glass-painter. He then studied at the Düsseldorf Academy of Art, and showed the first of his Capitalist Realist works, which were ironic responses to Social Realism and Pop Art, in a 1963 exhibition he organized with fellow artists Gerhard Richter and Konrad Fischer-Lueg. Eliciting commentary on the lifestyle and conventions of the German middle class, these early pieces already displayed Polke’s hallmark wit and irony. The works incorporate everyday and mass-produced objects, which corresponded with the cheap surfaces on which he painted, such as wallpaper or fabric, as well as his use of offset printing techniques.

Polke also used a print raster aesthetic, which he called a “grid” technique, in which he painted enlarged images of magazines and newspapers on canvas, mixing art historical motifs with commercial imagery. In the 1970s, Polke travelled extensively and worked increasingly with photography, using photographs taken in Pakistan and Afghanistan as the source material for later paintings. From 1977, Polke was a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Hamburg, a position he held until 1991. In his large gestural paintings from the 1980s, Polke worked with both traditional and unusual materials, using chemicals, varnishes and mixtures of pigments, solvents and toxins in his work. He exhibited his work at the documenta 5, 6, and 7 exhibitions in Kassel, and had several international retrospectives. Polke’s last work was the renewal of the glass windows of the Großmünster cathedral in Zurich between 2006 and 2009, before he died of cancer in 2010.

Sigmar Polke
Sigmar Polke
Olesnica, 1941

Past Exhibitions

The World on Paper

27/09/2018 — 07/01/2019

Face and Form

de la Cruz Collection
01/12/2017 — 30/11/2018

Sigmar Polke: The Editions

me Collectors Room Berlin Stiftung Olbricht
28/04/2017 — 27/08/2017

Revolt of the sage

Blain | Southern London
24/11/2016 — 21/01/2017

Progressive Praxis

de la Cruz Collection
29/11/2016 — 29/11/2017

Solo Shows

Capitalist realism and other illustrated histories, Museu de Art de Sao Paulo, Brazil
Hommage an Sigmar Polke, anlässl. Des Todes von Sigmar Polke, Museum Frieder Burda, Baden-Baden, Germany
Sigmar Polke: Die Editionen, Museum Ludwig, Köln, Germany
Sigmar Polke: Wir Kleinbürger! Zeitgenossen und Zeitgenossinnen, Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg, Germany
Sigmar Polke: Lens Paintings, The Arts Club of Chicago, and Michael Werner Gallery, New York, USA
Sigmar Polke: Photographische Arbeiten aus der Sammlung Garnatz, Die Photographische Sammlung / SK Stiftung Kultur, Cologne, and Städtische Galerie Karlsruhe, Karlsruhe, Germany
Sigmar Polke: Linsenbilder, Galerie Michael Werner at Julius Werner Berlin, Berlin, Germany
Sigmar Polke: Interferenzen & Uran, Springer & Winckler Galerie, Berlin, Germany
The 30th Anniversary: Collection of the National Museum of Art, Osaka, Japan
Ruckblende, Die Fotosamlung der Neuen Galerie Graz, Neue Galerie Graz am Landesmuseum Joanneum, Graz, Austria
Sigmar Polke: Kulturschablone, Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg, Germany
Sigmar Polke, Museum fur Gegenwartskunst Siegen, Siegen, Germany
Sigmar Polke: Alice in Wonderland, The National Museum of Art, Osaka, Japan
Implosion, Anton Kern Gallery, New York, USA
Mythologies, Walker Art Center, Minnesota, USA
Sigmar Polke: 64 Photographs from 1977, Springer & Winckler Galerie, Berlin, Germany
Frontiers: Collecting the Art of our Time, Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, USA
Sigmar Polke: Photographs 1960-2005, Städtische Kunsthalle Mannheim, Mannheim, Germany
Stratification: an installation of works since 1960, Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, USA
Sigmar Polke, Photographs 1969 – 1974, Nyehaus, New York, USA (solo)
Sigmar Polke: Ausgesuchte Werke, Galerie Karl Pfefferle, Munich, Germany (solo)
Sigmar Polke: Fotografien 1964-1968/1990, Galerie Stefan Röpke, Cologne, Germany (solo)
Sigmar Polke: Vintage Photographs from a Private Collection, Galerie Judin / Haunch of Venision, Zürich, Switzerland (solo)
Alice in Wonderland, Ueno Royal Museum, Tokyo, Japan
Sigmar Polke: Works & Days, Kunsthaus Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland (solo)
Sigmar Polke: Music From an Unknown Source, Vietnam Museum of Fine Arts, Hanoi, Vietnam (solo)
Sigmar Polke: Fotografien 1964 – 2000, Springer & Winckler Galerie, Berlin, Germany (solo)
The History of Everything, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, USA
Projects on paper II, Mike Karstens, Münster, Germany (solo)
Sigmar Polke: History of Everything, Tate Modern, London, England
Sigmar Polke: Original + Fälschung, Rupertinum Salzburg, Salzburg, Austria
Sigmar Polke, Ishizaka Art, Spark Inc, Tokyo, Japan
Sigmar Polke: Recent Paintings and Drawings, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, USA
Sigmar Polke: Music of Unclear Origin, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, Scotland
Kunst ist unser Antrieb. Sigmar Polke, Die Gesamten Editionen (1963-2000), Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Bonn, Germany
Sigmar Polke: Die Alten, Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona, Spain
Sigmar Polke: Works on Paper, 1963-1974, Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA
Sigmar Polke: Printing Mistakes 1996-98, Michael Werner Gallery, New York, USA
Sigmar Polke: Die drei Lügen der Malerei, Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Bonn, Germany
Sigmar Polke. Arbeiten auf Papier, Deutsche Bank Luxembourg S.A., Luxemburg
Sigmar Polke Photoworks: When Pictures Vanish, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, USA (solo)
Sigmar Polke: Join The Dots, Tate Gallery Liverpool, Liverpool, England
Sigmar Polke, Carré d’Art, Musée d’Art Contemporain, Nîmes, France
Sigmar Polke: Gemeinschaftswerk Aufschwung Ost, Bruno Brunnet Fine Arts, Berlin, Germany
Sigmar Polke: Schilderijen, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Sigmar Polke, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, USA
Sigmar Polke, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, USA
Sigmar Polke, Hirshhorn Museum, Washington D.C.
Sigmar Polke, Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, USA
Polke, Michael Werner, New York, USA
Sigmar Polke: Das photographische Werk, Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, Germany (solo)
Sigmar Polke: Fotografien Paris 1971, Jablonka Galerie, Cologne, Germany (solo)
Sigmar Polke, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, ARC, France
Mary Boone Gallery, New York, USA
Athanor. Il padiglione, Pavillon der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, XLII Biennale di Venezia, Venice, Italy (solo)
Kunsthaus, Zürich, Kunsthalle Köln, Germany
Sigmar Polke, Museum Boymans-van-Beuningen, Rotterdam; Städtisches Kunstmuseum, Bonn, Germany
Zeichnungen 1963-1968, Galerie Michael Werner, Cologne, Germany
Sigmar Polke – Carte/Fotografie/Tele, Studio d’Arte Cannaviello, Milan, Italy (solo)
Sigmar Polke – 39 Fotounikate, Galerie Thomas Borgmann, Cologne, Germany (solo)
Holly Solomon Gallery, New York, USA
Galerie Rudolf Zwirner, Cologne, Germany
Galerie Bama, Paris, France
InK, Halle für internationale neue Kunst, Zürich, Switzerland
Sigmar Polke: Fotos / Achim Duchow, Projektionen, Kasseler Kunstverein, Kassel, Germany
Sigmar Polke: Fotos, Galerie Klein, Bonn, Germany (solo)
Sigmar Polke Bilder: Tücher – Objekte. Werkauswahl 1962-1972, Kunsthalle Tübingen, Tübingen; städtische Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, The Netherlands
Mu Nieletnam Netorruprup, Kunsthalle zu Kiel und Schleswig-Holstein, Kiel, Germany
Original + Fälschung, Städtisches Kunstmuseum, Bonn, Germany
Franz Liszt kommt gern zu mir zum Fernsehen, Westfälischer Kunstverein, Münster, Germany
Galerie des Goethe-Instituts, Provisorium, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Galerie Michael Werner, Cologne, Germany
Kabinett für aktuelle Kunst, Bremerhaven, Germany
Galerie René Block, Berlin, Germany
Galerie h, Hannover, Germany
Hommage à Schmela, Galerie Schmela, Düsseldorf, Germany

Contacts & Details

City of birth: Olesnica Country of birth: Germany Date of birth: 1941