POLKLEE – Both would have relished this play on words, since both loved language, its multiple meanings, its wit and power to influence – Sigmar Polke und Paul Klee.
Their biographies join almost seamlessly into one another: On June 29th 1940 Paul Klee passed away, eight months later, on February 13th 1941, Sigmar Polke was born. Today Polke is no longer with us either: he died in 2010 from cancer.
Not in every respect, but still with reference to many artistic concepts, Klee and Polke can be considered as related spirits. They are linked by the way they critically analysed their era and world through their artistic activity, as well as the ambiguity and latent irony always present in their works. At the same time they both retain the awareness that artistic work remains entirely inexplicable and expresses also something slightly profane, just pure matter. In this way incredible analogies are to be found in their works. The bringing together of Polke and Klee in the exhibition Higher beings is then also much more than a private association of the curator. Each œuvre reflects in the light of the other protagonist in such a way, that our vision is freshly directed and makes the new visible.
How intensely Polke was occupied with the works of Klee can only be determined with difficulty. It is certain that he knew the work – firstly, since Klee as the model example of an “artists’ artist” has not failed to have an effect on every subsequent colleague of note. And secondly Polke knew Klee’s works by his older brother Wilfrid, who was a sculptor. In his youth – as Polke remembers – he was enthusiastic about Dadaism and also about Klee. Finally this was also due to Berne, one of the centres in Klee’s life and the seat of his legacy. His work was transferred into the Museum of Fine Arts Berne by the Paul Klee-Foundation. Since the 1970’s Polke visited Berne frequently and maintained close contacts, amongst others also to Klee experts.
As mentioned at the beginning, Klee and Polke were equally endowed with a talent for linguistic wit. Polke’s title Higher beings ordered: paint top right-hand corner black could have been placed under the work of both of them, so that our shortened exhibition title Higher beings – Sigmar Polke and Paul Klee binds the carefully selected paintings by Polke and Klee together. Meanwhile it seems not only appropriate to express our appreciation for the artistic work of both artists in an authentic tone, but also – thanks to Polke’s and Klee’s scepsis and irony – to deconstruct any approach to admiring genius.
In this sense also POLKLEE would have enjoyed this exhibition!