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14 Dec 2019 - 15 Mar 2020

Polke vs Blaudzun. Music of an Unknown Source

The Cobra Museum has asked singer and composer Blaudzun if he would like to undertake a search for “Music of an unknown source”, inspired by Sigmar Polke’s 1996 series Musik ungeklärter Herkunft.

The exhibition Polke vs Blaudzun, music of an unknown source, is on display starting December 14 and the new album by Blaudzun, Musik ungeklärter Herkunft (original soundtrack) will be on sale in the museumshop

NOTE: on januari 24 this exibition will be closed in the afternoon from 14:00hrs on.



Corona virus update: The Cobra Museum of Modern Art is closed between 15.03.20 and 31.03.20

More information here

Sigmar Polke

The German painter Sigmar Polke (1941 – 2010) is one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. His capitalist-realistic artworks are an important moment in post-war German painting. Polke took the consumer and media world to the grain with his style. In addition to being a painter who constantly explored the limits of painting, he was an experimental photographer and filmmaker, graphic designer and chemist. The open and investigative attitude that Polke exhibited extends beyond his varied choice of images and materials. In his choice of subject, he also loosely combined images from old books with current magazines and advertisements from the consumers world.

In 1995, Polke was invited to make a series of paintings for the IFA Institut fur Auslandsbeziehungen. After an initial meeting with the artist, curator Götz Adriani was unable to get hold of Polke for weeks. When he was finally able to visit Polke’s studio in Cologne in December 1995, it turned out that the then 64-year-old artist had been working like crazy all that time. From a ‘fascinating abundance’, according to the surprised client, the selected a series of 40 pieces together. That was the ‘music of unknown origin’: Musik ungeklärter Herkunft (1996). The series of gouaches has travelled the world ever since and is now on show for the first time with a specially composed musical score by Blaudzun.

Sigmar Polke: Musik Ungeklärter Herkunft: Türen verstopfen und den Raum nicht betreten / Music from an unknown source: seal off the doors and do not enter the room 1996. © 2019 Pictoright Amsterdam

Sigmar Polke made no bones about it: you could take art very seriously and yet approach it light-footedly, even with complete absurdity. In a 1984 interview for Parkett with Swiss critic Bice Curiger the conversation starts off as follows:

BC: Let’s start with a kind, of review – 20 years of Polke. How did it all begin?

SP: Who called and told you to interview me?

BC: Who called and told you to become an artist? I’m the one who’s asking the questions.

SP: Well we’re going to have to wait and see whether the artist is being called, heard, or charged. You must mean that being an artist is some kind of charge.

BC: Of course.

SP: Then all we have to do is find the plaintiff. And we’ve got to get a clearer picture of the sentence. Art is punishment, that’s it, art is punishment!




Blaudzun has become the last ten years an established name in the Dutch and European music world. With various albums and tours he knows how to reach a large and diverse audience, with music that he composes, plays and produces. Blaudzun has a unique, confrontational voice that sometimes sounds oppressive, then again hopeful or combative. He is known for his diverse and experimental musical activities and collaborations. In addition, he has succeeded as artist within the music industry to remain independent. Once before, Blaudzun composed music in the visual arts (Wheatfield with mower by Vincent van Gogh) under the name HATY HATY, in collaboration with producer David Douglas.

Blaudzun aworking in the studio on Polke vs Blaudzun September 2019

Polke vs Blaudzun. Music of an unknown source

The Sigmar Polke vs Blaudzun project: Music of an unknown source is a good example of how the Cobra Museum provides a new dynamic to existing modern visual art in the tradition of the Cobra movement (non-hierarchical and material-experimental). Blaudzun was given the freedom to start his search as a musical experiment. He chose 9 works that he provided with a musical soundtrack. Together the compositions form a “score” that is linked to 9 individual works, but that can also be heard and viewed as a gesamtkunstwerk. The recording period, at the end of the summer, brought him to studios in the Netherlands, Germany and the United States. In the museum you can listen to the music in a special 3D audio setup (11.1 surround). Blaudzun made the mix for this audio setup with Grammy-nominated Ronald Prent in the Valhalla Studios in New York.

Blaudzun door Isolde Woudstra

Blaudzun Musik ungeklärter Herkunft (original Soundtrack): A catalogue with a vinyl: Image and sound brought together

Track Piroutte Fall (Musik ungeklärter Herkunft) can be heard on Spotify and Apple Music from 26 October. Use this link.

The Cobra Museum of Modern Art, in collaboration with Octobre and the German label Glitterhouse, publishes Musik ungeklärter Herkunft (original Soundtrack), which is also the catalog for the Polke vs Blaudzun exhibition.

It will be released on December 13 on Spotify and Apple Music and is available exclusively on 12 ″ vinyl. Nine artworks from Sigmar Polke have been added as separate prints in the vinyl edition / exhibition catalog so that people can relive the project at home. Author and former Volkskrant art critic Sacha Bronwasser has written an essay for the publication. There are thirty signed artist editions with a photo of Blaudzun made by photographer Isolde Woudstra.


This catalog /album is exclusively available via the Cobra Museum shop or via

The price is €30 for the regurlar limited edition (circulation of 620) and €75 for the Artist edition (circulation 0f 30)

Buy it at our shop or order it online by sending a mail to subject: Polke vs Blaudzun publication

Give us your name, adress, and telephonenumber

Shipment costs within Netherlands: €8,50



Publication of the exhibition contains works by Sigmar Polke, Music on vinyl by Blaudzun and an essay by Sacha Bronwasser.
Sigmar Polke: Musik Ungeklärter Herkunft: Türen verstopfen und den Raum nicht betreten / Music from an unknown source: seal off the doors and do not enter the room 1996. © 2019 Pictoright Amsterdam
Sigmar Polke: Schwärze beim Aufsteigen des Mondes, das Gekreisch der Nachtvogel, wenn sie sich uber das Aufgestortwerden beschwerten. The blackness when the moon is rising, the cries of the night-birds, complaining about being disturbed. 1996 . 2019 © Pictoright Amsterdam

Extra presentation: Cobra and Music

Some of the Cobra artists sought expression in music. Jazz was an important source of inspiration for Karel Appel. He said: “When I work I have to have noise, jazz, shouting. I always play records from Jimmy Rushing or Count Basie. “In 1961 he locked himself in a sound studio for days with a sound engineer. Appel played various instruments and then edited the recordings electronically. The songs composed by Appel were released on LP with the title Musique Barbare (1963).

Cobra member Asger Jorn invited artist Jean Dubuffet in the sixties to improvise music together. Both had some musical education, but consciously chose instruments with which they had no experience whatsoever. Their goal was only the musical experiment.

Music also played a central role in the life of Eugène Brands. In this he found the essence of being human. He gave lectures and musical meetings and regularly organized music evenings at Le Canard in Amsterdam.

Constant also maintained a band with music. As a child he played the violin, guitar and later on also cymbal (on display at the museum). Over the years, Constant has collected a large number of special musical instruments, which he received in some cases from the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag in exchange for his visual work. This and more will be seen as part of the collection presentation, related to the exhibition Polke vs Blaudzun, music of an unknown origin.

Karel Appel, gefotografeerd door Ed van der Elsken tijdens de opnames van Musique barbare

Polke vs Blaudzun, Musik ungeklarter Herkunft has been made possible by: IFA (Institut fur Auslandsbeziehungen), Mondriaan Fonds, Fonds Podiumkunsten, Prins Bernhard Cultuur Fonds, Gijselaar-Hintzenfonds and  Stichting Doradarte.

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