German painter Georg Baselitz takes no prisoners in his recent interview with Spiegel, conducted at the lakeside Herzog & de Meuron-designed home-studio he doesn’t want photographed for fear that it will attract interest, an introductory bit of color that should tip readers off to the coming deluge of crankiness. In case you don’t want to wade through three web pages of the septuagenarian’s snarling commentary — “which he delivers with a mischievous smile” — on women artists, German museums, the media, the art market, and more, here are some highlights.
Baselitz says Berlin’s National Gallery does a poor job collecting contemporary German art:
Baselitz: Berlin has the National Gallery, a name that suggests that the museum ought to be there for national art. There are similar museums all over the world, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the MoMA in New York and the Reina Sofia in Madrid. They all fulfill their purpose and do what has to be done.
Spiegel: And what’s that?
Baselitz: They collect what’s important in their respective countries. In Berlin’s National Gallery, however, this isn’t the case. They’re interested neither in me nor the other usual suspects. It’s simply a German reality.
Baselitz doesn’t buy the art world’s cult of personality:
Those who don’t drink and aren’t crazy, or who don’t attract attention with how they behave in public, aren’t noticed in art.
Baselitz doesn’t believe that people actually go to museums — certainly not to see his exhibitions:
The museums! They say that people are going there. I had two big exhibitions in Dresden, but no one went. There are plenty of tourists on the street in Dresden, but they’d rather go to the Green Vault (museum) or to see the Old Masters. Other contemporary artists have had the same experience. [...] I think that our music and our art belong to our era. If the public doesn’t show up, it must be stupid.
Baselitz wants to be part of the art market and the in crowd; he just wants to belong:
It’s really an ambition. I want to be part of it, to be young and belong. That has always been what I wanted.
Baselitz doesn’t think much of Jeff Koons’s porn paintings:
The most unpleasant works of Jeff Koons that I’ve seen are those fuck paintings with Cicciolina. Just the fact that he made those paintings while at the same time talking about love and fathering a child … I think it’s dreadful.
Baselitz believes it’s a “fact” that women don’t paint well:
Spiegel: The market only embraces a few women. There are hardly any women among the most expensive artists.
Baselitz: Oh God! Women simply don’t pass the test.
Spiegel: What test?
Baselitz: The market test, the value test.
Spiegel: What’s that supposed to mean?
Baselitz: Women don’t paint very well. It’s a fact. There are, of course, exceptions. Agnes Martin or, from the past, Paula Modersohn-Becker. I feel happy whenever I see one of her paintings. But she is no Picasso, no Modigliani and no Gauguin.
Spiegel: So women supposedly don’t paint very well.
Baselitz: Not supposedly. And that despite the fact that they still constitute the majority of students in the art academies.
Spiegel: It probably isn’t a genetic defect.
Baselitz: I think the defect actually lies with male artists. Male artists often border on idiocy, while it’s important for a woman not to be that way, if possible. Women are outstanding in science, just as good as men.
Though the interview ends shortly after the above exchange — possibly because the journalists, Susanne Beyer and Ulrike Knöfel, have reached their full capacity for absorbing offensive comments — Baselitz does mention how happy he is to no longer be a professor, a fact for which art academy students of any gender should be grateful.
— Benjamin Sutton
(Photo via Wikipedia Commons.)