Jörg Immendorff, ‘Auf die Plätze’, 1981, Koller Auctions

An appeal to the West German and European artists: Deal in your works with questions of day-to-day life, injustice, the question of the threat of war by two imperialistic states, political repression – engage yourself for freedom, because if the first bomb falls, there will be no dry easel left, Your Jörg Immendorff, May 1978.” (cit. Dieter Koepplin, in: Jörg Immendorff - „Café Deutschland“, catalogue: Exhibition at the Kunstmuseum Basel 1979, p. 10),

At the end of the 1970s, Jörg Immendorff concentrated all of his work on the topic of the conflict between East and West. In 1977, he began painting his cycle of 16 pictures called “Café Deutschland”, in which he denounced the parting of Germany, the construction of the wall in Berlin, the shoot-to-kill order and the nuclear arms race of the great powers. He found a fellow-campaigner in A.R. Penck, who worked across the internal German border in Dresden, whom he met as an artist (in the underground) in 1976. Penck and Immendorff founded a new artist collective that was to act beyond the inner German border. They decided “to dedicate their work to the service of overcoming the arbitrarily erected border in the form of the Berlin Wall.” (cit. David Elliot, in: Jörg Immendorff, Galerie Michael Werner, Exhibition catalogue 2014). The cycle of paintings called “Café Deutschland” thereby became a sort of theatre scene for the personalities, developments and historical occurrences in divided Germany.

The two works of Joseph Beuys’s pupil, Jörg Immendorff “: Auf die Plätze” (“On your Mark”) and “Alltag im Café Ost” (“Day-to-day Life in East Café”) were created for this series of paintings. Considered from the perspective of our time, these paintings seem to be the visions of a clairvoyant. The painted reunification of the FRD and GDR seemed to be sheer utopia at the time. The vehemence and determination against a divided Germany, with which Immerdorff paints, is not only expressed in the choice of the aggressively political topic, but also in the pictorial means he uses. He conveys his message with powerful colours, clearly defined lines and a summary surface treatment.

In “Auf die Plätze”, a male figure is kneeling down in the starting position of a sprinter, in front of the steep wall of a fortress, with a red flag as if he were expecting to surmount this wall at the sound of the starting gun. Keeping his gaze firmly fixed on his target, he is but a few centimetres away from the top of the wall. Immerdorff pointedly captures the mood of the time: the tension, the curbed strength that transforms high concentration into action.

Signature: Signed and dated along the upper right margin: Jörg Immendorff 81, also titled lower centre: Auf die Plätze.

Zurich 1990, Jörg Immendorff. Bilder und Arbeiten auf Papier. Galerie Raymond Bollag, Zurich, 24 April - 20 June 1990 (with the label on the reverse).

Acquired from Galerie Raymond Bollag, Zurich, by the present owner in 1990. Since then private collection Switzerland.

About Jörg Immendorff

Provocative painter, sculptor, and stage designer Jorg Immendorff is considered one of Germany’s most important painters of the last century. He is known for his dense, bizarre scenes laden with a wide range of symbolic influences pulled from art history, mythology, and German history. Born at the end of the Second World War, Immendorff’s work reflects the political and psychological turmoil imbedded in postwar German life, in equal parts romping comedy and tragedy. He depicts characters from both his personal life and greater culture in chaotic, large-scale oil paintings that borrow staging and composition from theater. His backgrounds often descend into darkness, as in the “Café Deutschland” series, which Immendorff started in 1977. The bar’s interior functions as a stage set, and the cast of characters represents an allegory of the ideological clash between the East and West.

German, 1945-2007, Bleckede, Germany, based in Düsseldorf, Germany