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.
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!
In 1994, Polke received the Erasmus Prize for his oeuvre.