Sigmar Polke

1941–2010

Sigmar Polke (German, 1941–2010) worked as an apprentice in a stained glass factory in Düsseldorf between 1959 and 1960, before he was accepted at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf (Academy of Arts) in 1961. There he studied until 1967, and was deeply influenced by one of his teachers, the artist Joseph Beuys. Obtaining his diploma in 1967, Polke entered the art world at a time of enormous social, cultural and artistic upheaval in Germany and around the globe. His work encompassed a broad range of mediums from painting to performance or stained glass. Polke turned to photography in the second half of the 1960s with the fresh eye of a young artist, open to the unexpected and the chance encounters of everyday life. Disregarding the basic rules of shooting and processing, Polke used the camera and photographic processes as artistic tools similar to paint and brush. He used the medium since the late 1960s to stage absurd, comical situations or objects, but also to capture his surroundings and friends, as well as his travels. His use of photo lab processing—with spontaneous manipulations of photochemistry and paper—also corresponded to his unconventional approach, often criticizing notions of reality. Sigmar Polke’s artistic self-image was that of an alchemist and researcher, giving shape to unfathomable and invisible phenomena.