1941 - 2010 · Germany
Sigmar Polke’s inventive paintings, photographs, film, and installations defined the art of its time. His work playfully pulled aside the veil of the art world, exposing its capitalist underbelly in what he and his fellow artists deemed Capitalist Realism. As a response to the hyper-commodification of American and British Pop Art, Polke incorporated non-traditional materials like meteorite dust and laundry detergent into his work, aiming to critique art itself. Wry and acerbic, his work is filled with wit and confrontation constantly encouraging viewers to question and contemplate social, political, and aesthetic conventions that are often taken at face value.
Born 1941 in Poland, his family was expelled to communist East Germany after the war. His childhood in the German Democratic Republic left a lasting impact on Polke and influenced his sensitivity to the consumerism that confronted him upon his move to West Germany in 1953. He graduated from Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, where he, alongside Gerhard Richter and Konrad Lueg created Capitalism Realism and explored the nationalist and consumerist themes of West Germany.
By his death in 2010 Polke was widely considered to be one of the most influential artists of the postwar era. Polke’s works continue to be featured in the permanent collections of major museums around the world, including the Art Institute of Chicago, The Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; the National Museum of Art, Osaka; the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam; the Tate Modern, London; and the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; among countless others.