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The 80s
Figurative Painting in West Germany

22 July 2015–18 Oct 2015

About the Exhibition

The exhibition “The 80s: Figurative Painting in West Germany” shed light on the novel, disconcerting, and highly dynamic figurative painting that developed in the 1980s almost simultaneously above all in the centres Berlin, Hamburg and the Rhineland. Works by such artists as Ina Barfuss, Werner Büttner, Walter Dahn, Jiří Georg Dokoupil, Rainer Fetting, Georg Herold, Martin Kippenberger, Helmut Middendorf, Christa Näher, Albert Oehlen, Salomé and Andreas Schulze were on view.

Ninety paintings by twenty-seven artists made up the Städel Museum’s comprehensive exhibition on the figurative painting that emerged in West Germany around 1980 in the Berlin “Galerie am Moritzplatz”, the studio community “Mülheimer Freiheit” in Cologne, in Düsseldorf and in Hamburg and rapidly attained international recognition. With very different motivations, paintings were produced that sought to examine the painting tradition, the post-war avant-gardes and the artists’ own immediate present to equal degrees: masterfully executed “Bad Painting” encountered classical genre painting or staged dilettantism. Ambiguous, erratic, deliberately disconcerting compositions and structures of meaning became the common denominator within a heterogeneous pictorial production.

More than thirty years later, the Frankfurt show was undertaking a critical revision of this painting with a survey that reveals not only the diversity of styles and themes but above all the art-historical significance of a complex phenomenon that was long viewed through the spectacles of outdated discourses and clichés.

List of artists: Hans Peter Adamski, Peter Angermann, Elvira Bach, Ina Barfuß, Peter Bömmels, Werner Büttner, Luciano Castelli, Walter Dahn, Jiří Georg Dokoupil, Rainer Fetting, G. L. Gabriel, Georg Herold, Gerard Kever, Jan Knap, Milan Kunc, Martin Kippenberger, Helmut Middendorf, Christa Näher, Gerhard Naschberger, Albert Oehlen, Markus Oehlen, Salomé, Andreas Schulze, Bettina Semmer, Volker Tannert, Thomas Wachweger, Bernd Zimmer

Curators: Dr. Martin Engler (Head of the Contemporary Art Collection, Städel Museum), Franziska Leuthäußer (Assistant Curator of the Contemporary Art Collection, Städel Museum)


Sponsors & Partners

Sponsored by
Deutsche Bank AG

Media partner
Cicero – Magazin für politische Kultur, Verkehrsgesellschaft Frankfurt am Main

Cultural partner