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Werner BĂźttner Plenty of Room for all Sorts of Happiness

Werner BĂźttner

Werner BĂźttner Plenty of Room for all Sorts of Happiness

The Directors of Marlborough would like to thank most warmly the many – too numerous to name – who have helped make this exhibition and catalogue possible. In particular, however, they would like to express their gratitude to Max Hetzler and his Gallery in Berlin for their very generous assistance and cooperation in assembling a significant group of early works to accompany the impressive body of Büttner’s new paintings, which the gallery is privileged to show. Furthermore, the Directors would especially like to thank Hans Ulrich Obrist and Barry Schwabsky for their illuminating catalogue texts, Ingo Offermanns who has once again worked closely with the artist in designing our catalogue, and Philip Wright for his contribution as editor. The exhibition will be shown on both floors in the London Gallery. The Directors February 2018


Table of Contents


No Laughing Matter Barry Schwabsky


Works 1981 – 1989


It all began with a one-night stand An interview with Werner Büttner by Hans Ulrich Obrist


Works 2014 – 2017


List of Works

79 Biography


No Laughing Matter Barry Schwabsky

In looking at two groups of work by one artist, with a gap of some three decades between them, one could start by taking note of the differences, the changes across the years, or by considering the continuities in the oeuvre. In the case of Werner Büttner, there have been some very evident developments since the 1980s, when he became prominent as part of a new generation of German painters. Since then, his palette has lightened and brightened, for instance, and (almost against his will, as he distrusts anything facile or ingratiating in art) his brush has become more fluent. But to my eye, what’s most striking is how consistent Büttner has remained in his attitude – in what might be called the purpose of his art. So what I am about to say goes, unless I am mistaken, for all of Büttner’s work, early and recent. It’s a remarkable peculiarity that, until his first show with Marlborough in London in 2015, Büttner had been practically invisible across the anglophone world since 1990, when he had exhibited with the Kerlin Gallery in Belfast. During the preceding decade he had held two solo exhibitions in New York and participated in several touring exhibitions in the United States, as well as in an important group show in London. So why have the English-speaking peoples – in Winston Churchill’s phrase – looked away from Büttner’s work for so long? I can’t help wondering whether cultural misconceptions might not be part of the reason. One stereotype among both the British and the Americans is the belief that Germans lack humour – or anyway that German humour is not funny. A 2011 headline in The Daily Telegraph “officially” declared Germany “the world’s least funny country”1; “Being German is no laughing matter,” The Economist told its readers five years later, assuring them that “It may be clichéd but it’s also true: Germans have no sense of humour.”2 Well, here’s something funny: when I look at Büttner’s paintings, one of the things I appreciate about them is their humour – but I don’t laugh. Maybe some people don’t recognize that kind of humour as humour. It confuses them. What do you do with humour that isn’t funny – that takes you, in fact, to some of the dark places in human

experience, where to laugh would be letting yourself off way too easily? Humour of any kind is unusual in recent painting, both American and British – the pleasures of an Alex Katz or a Brice Marden, a Bridget Riley or a Lucian Freud are elsewhere – but this kind of dark, unfunny humour has been essential to German painting since the 1960s. It’s telling, however, that the German painter most widely recognized abroad, Gerhard Richter, is precisely the one in whose work humour is mostly absent, and that Anselm Kiefer became the great name we know today precisely by eschewing the scathing irony of his early photographic works in favour of the mourning and melancholia of his vast canvases. But it is impossible to appreciate the work of Sigmar Polke, Georg Baselitz, or Martin Kippenberger – to name only a few – without coming to terms with their sardonic depiction of society, the individual, and art itself - and the same is true of Büttner’s work. Undoubtedly, there are clear reasons why a dark humour would come naturally to artists born in Germany in the 1940s and ’50s. They know better than anyone that being German is no laughing matter. Not only did they grow up in the shadow of their country’s defeat in war and the revelation of its crimes, so that they had to see their parents’ and grandparents’ generations as utterly compromised; but their country was divided. Within the irreconcilable systems of the east and west, of the Democratic Republic and the Federal Republic, each served to reveal the weaknesses of the other. It’s striking how many of the leading artists in West Germany in the decades before unification were born in the east, including (among the older generation) Baselitz, Kiefer, Polke, and Richter, as well as A.R. Penck and Blinky Palermo. Little wonder that Polke and Richter (along with the western-born Konrad Lueg, a.k.a. Konrad Fischer) began their careers by promulgating the pseudo-movement ‘Capitalist Realism’. They were playing on the Soviet-bloc idea of ‘Socialist Realism’, but twisting it to create an ironic visual paean to the crass and superficial aspects of the consumer culture of West Germany in the years of its Wirtschaftswunder or ‘economic miracle’ – the religious vocabulary alone speaks volumes. Büttner, too, spent his “happy childhood in the Workers’ and Farmers’ paradise”3 until the age of seven. Once in the west, he told me, he was “daily reminded of being a refugee, a displaced person” and therefore took on this displacement as a source of pride. He kept himself as detached from the values of the Germany into which he’d been thrown, as he was from the one from which he’d been taken. Each of those Germanies declared the way of life cultivated by the other to be both false and ugly, and Büttner appears to be among the significant number of people who came to the conclusion that in this, at least, both were right. When life is necessarily false and ugly, then what in the world is the role of art? To beautify it? In the United States we have a phrase for that: putting lipstick on a pig. No, but art can still serve to express scorn and ridicule, which is at least some kind of relief, and also helps you find out who shares your outlook. The painting becomes a kind of banner around which those who object to the way things are can come together. That’s why, in Büttner’s eyes, the problem with abstraction is that “you cannot mock or insult Creation, you cannot mock or insult contemporary art with it.”4 His is an art of mockery – of sarcasm, really. It mocks life and it mocks art (itself included) in equal measure. But Büttner’s sarcasm has a positive aim and, in just the sense that Antonio Gramsci used the term in writing about the sarcasm of Karl Marx - in a passage that I am grateful to the writer and broadcaster Richard Seymour for pointing out - a form of sarcasm meant to attack, not human aspirations, but rather “their contingent form


which is linked to a particular ‘perishable’ world, their cadaverous smell, so to speak, that leaks from behind the painted façade.”5 Büttner paints the façade and the smell at once. But his sarcasm shouldn’t leave you hopeless or resigned, even when you’re implicated in its critique, but energized – because it upholds the idea that a better and truer life should be possible, even if not for us. Creation, and the creations of artists, are worthy of mockery and insult because they address an idea of what the world could be, of what art could be, that is so much better than the sorry mess we have made of them. I don’t suppose Büttner is particularly concerned with the ideas of his fellow German Marx; what counts is that they share a similar use of humour. As Seymour points out, this sarcastic use of humour has a masochistic side to it; it not only deflates the pretensions of others, but also one’s own, and yet it extracts what share of pleasure it can from that deflation. That’s why Büttner’s art has to mock art and not just the world. It’s a way of admitting failure, and of enjoying it – unlike wit, which asserts a superiority to things. Sarcasm is generally considered a low form of humour, something for adolescents. Maybe that assumption, too, is part of the reason it’s taken us so long to come around to Büttner. In an 1836 notebook entry, the philosopher Karl Rosenkranz, a contemporary of Marx and likewise a follower of Hegel, asked himself, “God doesn’t have a sense of humour? If not, how could the world persist?”6 It’s an ambiguous remark, to say the least. Is Rosenkranz implying that God maintains the world for his own amusement, something to snicker at as a kind of cruel private joke? Or does it mean that the Omniscient One knows of the happy ending that’s in store? Büttner’s paintings suggest that God’s sense of humour would also have to be sarcastic – that in witnessing the world he’s made he’d have to admit to himself, however covertly, that making worlds is an art that ought to have been handled far more elegantly than this. Some two decades after making that note about God’s sense of humour, Rosenkranz composed his Aesthetics of Ugliness, reasoning that just as understanding falsehood illuminates what truth is and injustice illuminates what justice is, that quintessential aesthetic value, beauty, had to be understood by way of its negation. But having completed his analysis of ugliness, Rosenkranz came to the realization that it was incomplete, because it is only through humour that a kind of reconciliation between beauty and ugliness is attained: “I have learned to some degree to survey with an astounded gaze the enormous extent of ugliness in art, but I have also recognized ever more clearly its intimate connection with the comical. I therefore hold the concept of humour for the ultimate in the metaphysics of beauty.”7 Rosenkranz may have been on to something. In any case, I would suggest that if you can see the humour in Büttner’s paintings, you might also find their beauty.

1 Martin Evans, “Germany officially the world’s least funny country,” The Daily Telegraph, June 7, 2011, online at ture/8560815/Germany-officially-the-worlds-


2 Andreas Kluth, “Being German is no laughing matter,” The Economist, May 3, 2016, online at 3 “Werner Büttner’s prosaic biography in tabular prose,” Werner Büttner: Coincidence in Splendour (London: Black Dog Publishing, 2016), p. 246. 4 ‘“Reality is a surprisingly cheap stoolpigeon”: Werner Büttner and Andrew Renton in Conversation,’ in Werner Büttner: The Marking of the

Abyss (London: Marlborough Contemporary, 2015), unpaginated. 5 Richard Seymour, “Not: Marxism as ‘Organised Sarcasm.’” Salvage 5, October 2017, online at, and quoting from Antonio Gramsci, Prison Notebooks, Vol. 1, tr. by Joseph A. Buttigieg (New York: Columbia University Press, 1992), p. 118. 6 Quoted by Andrei Pop, “Approaching Ugliness: Karl Rosenkranz’s Contribution to Philosophy,” in Rosenkranz, Aesthetics of Ugliness: A Critical Edition, tr. by Pop and Mechtild Widrich (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2017), p. 1. 7 Karl Rosenkranz, “Additional Texts on Aesthetics,” Aesthetics of Ugliness, p. 305.

Works 1981 – 1989


[ 1 ]

Blanket with Burn Holes and Reindeer Antlers with Notes, 1981

[ 2 ]

In the Vineyard, 1981


[ 3 ]

Maternité, 1983


[ 4 ]

Still Life with Armchair and Souvenir Photo, 1984

[ 5 ]

Nursing Woman, 1984


[ 6 ]

Welfare State Impression, 1982


[ 7 ]

Bathing Russians, 1984


[ 8 ]

Self-Portrait, Praising Creation, 1986


[ 9 ]

Laundry and Washerwomen, 1985


[ 10 ]

Storming the Bastille, 1986

[ 11 ]

Still Life with Fruit and Monument to the Grower, 1985


[ 12 ]

Still Life with Pigs and Peppers, 1988


[ 13 ]

Nude with Vulture, 1984

[ 14 ]

Woman with Delicate Little Profession, 1988


[ 15 ]

Run-over Hippie in the Egyptian Style, 1988

[ 16 ]

Rumour and Counter-Rumour, 1985


[ 17 ]

Puddle, 1989

[ 18 ]

Disappointed Pupil Leaves the House of Luxury, 1987


[ 19 ]

Self-Portrait as a Little Angel of Hate, 1988


[ 20 ]

Thirst, 1989

[ 21 ]

Self-Portrait in De Chirico Pose, 1989


It all began with a one-night stand An interview with Werner Büttner ( B ) by Hans Ulrich Obrist ( O )


How did you come to art? Was there an epiphany, a sudden awakening? B I was young, in my mid-twenties, in Berlin, and a woman took me back to her place. She lived in a shared flat and the next morning she opened the door and a billiard ball rolled slowly and menacingly across the floorboards. That was their in-house code and it meant: “Throw this guy out, Gunda, we want to have breakfast.” One of the people living there was Albert Oehlen and we became friends, we renovated flats together, and we spent three years talking about what remained to be done in art. Then we got down to work. So it all began with a one-night stand. O This was your socialization in West Berlin. Does the time before that play any part? B I grew up in East Germany, spending my first seven years in Jena. I was baptized in the Church of St. Michael, next to Martin Luther’s real tombstone, since his grave in Wittenberg only has a cheap copy, and not far from the ‘Angelus Jenesis’, one of the ‘Seven wonders of Jena’. But of course I had no religious education in the GDR . I was an outstanding Young Pioneer. It was only later that I read the Bible, in the hypocritical West, for reasons of cultural history. O I’ve just done an interview with Karl-Heinz Adler, who talked about the concrete slab apartment blocks in Jena. But those didn’t exist in your childhood, right? B No, Jena-Lobeda was built much later. Jena itself, the centre, is very old, at least what was spared by the bombs. But we lived outside the old town, in a 1930s housing development on the edge of the forest. It had an air-raid shelter where my grandmother stored her preserved fruit. I had a very sheltered childhood there, people looked after each other, left their doors open. An idyllic situation for a child. We had an allotment, I did well at school, and we had Aunt Trude who would occasionally kill one of her rabbits and share it with us. O No sense of growing up under a dictatorship then? B The policeman was friendly, as were the informers, and I was a socialist bundle of joy. Sometimes I think if we’d stayed in the GDR , if my mother hadn’t kidnapped me and taken me to the West, then in 1989 I’d have been Egon Krenz and I’d have been a bit tougher about selling off the GDR .


What year did your mother kidnap you? B It was two months before the Berlin Wall was built, June 1962. My father had already fled. He wanted to be rid of us, which my mother couldn’t accept, unfortunately. She took three helpless children and followed him. That was more or less the greatest achievement of her life. After the little family was reunited, my parents terrorized each other and she was the first to die, aged 52. So it was a shabby misalliance from which I emerged. O Your picture ‘On Thrownness and Entanglement’ (illustrated p. 64/65) recalls your account of your childhood. Are there parallels? B The picture shows me aged two on a pony against the background of a blown-up postcard of my home town. Definitely a biographical statement. But the title points to the calamities of any existence. According to Martin Heidegger, we are thrown into being by an unknown power, into a “being-toward-death”. In such an existence we are perpetually afraid, and this fear becomes a being-toward-nothing. Heidegger’s rather touching way out of this human dilemma is, in short, the freely designed life plan of each individual. He overlooks the fact that one is also thrown into entanglements that seriously impede being-towards-life-plan. One is thrown into a family, into a historical period and, worse still, into a zeitgeist, into political and social orders of uncertain quality and duration, and, if one is really unlucky, into an ice age or a global economic crisis. The freedom to plan one’s life is thus intrinsically occasionalist. And one must endure this insight. O I’m interested in your relationship with Rabelais. He seems to be as important to you as El Greco. When did you come into contact with his tales of ‘Gargantua and Pantagruel’? B I probably read them aged 25, with great gusto. And in the late 1980s I happened upon Mikhail Bakhtin’s ‘Rabelais and His World’. According to Bakhtin, Rabelais shows a world of visible laughter and invisible tears. An admirable approach that’s worth emulating. Bakhtin also says, and I gladly believe him, that it’s the most fear-free book in world history. The ultimate human aim. O Overcoming fear with Rabelais then – and you as a painter in the Golden West. In your interview with Werner Hofmann, you describe how you began in the 1970s to paint pictures from sketches, wet-on-wet and relatively crude, but most importantly taking no more than a day, otherwise it was no good. B Yes, that’s right. Today I can take a bit more time. Because now I don’t have to rush out of my studio to feast on the treats laid out by life. Fast or slow, you still have to end up with a picture you can sign without blushing. O Dieter Roth made these speed drawings. Was he on your radar at all? B Dieter Roth was always among my favourites, but I wasn’t directly influenced by the speed drawings. More by the stubbornness of his disdain for the system. O In the interview with Werner Hofmann, you also say it was actually about expanding the range of motifs, specifically in the venerable medium of painting, because that was easier to expand.


B Painting has always had clear subject categories: religion, landscape, history, hunting, still life, nude, self-portrait, etc.. And the artistic avant-gardes of the last century continued to accept some of them. The only new subject they added was worldlessness. “Art is art and everything else is everything else.” That was the irrefutable founding formula of this category. This led to an elegance that was risk-free, unassailable, and insufficiently complex. The vain shabbiness of the human condition were bypassed. Extra-terrestrial wallpaper. And in some cases overwhelming in their lofty ignorance. But that was not my path. I preferred to remain in the world. And I expanded my range of subjects via behavioural research and sociology. ‘Kaspar Hauser ducks follow a decoy’ or ‘Strangely, the hate of the lumpen proletariat is directed towards telephone boxes’ are examples. ‘Bathing Russians’ or ‘Storming the Bastille’ (illustrated on pp. 20/21 and 26/27 [cat.nos. 7 and 10]) were farewells to bombastic history painting. Every morning, I’m amazed at the funfair of earthly phenomena and I feel obliged to manically comment on them … O To stick with your beginnings a while longer, there was the meeting with Albert Oehlen, but when did you first meet Martin Kippenberger? B Berlin was getting on our nerves, the never-ending party. That can finish you off. So Albert and I moved to Hamburg. With the categorical intention: steady job, steady lodging, steady girlfriend. The first two were quickly dealt with. The third took a little longer. We didn’t know anyone in Hamburg and we had to use trial and error to find the bars where intelligent young people performed their mating rituals. When we found them, we also found Kippenberger. O What was your first joint project? B Our first collaboration was in Berlin in 1979, at ‘Kippenberger’s Büro’. That was the ‘label’ under which he sought to establish himself as an artist. He had just received an inheritance and he spent the money generously on good projects. He invited people he liked and also bought work off them. He began creating the family which by the time of his early death had grown impressively large. He invested the inherited money sensibly. The group show we took part in was called ‘Elend’ [misery]. O This inheritance was clearly important. Any memories of that first exhibition? B Yes. The amount was 250,000 deutschmarks, a lot of money at the time. It was a turbulent show. In the catalogue ‘Facharbeiterficken’ [skilled labourer f**king] there are a few installation views. We then did more group shows with similar lineups at Künstlerhaus Weidenallee in Hamburg and at Immendorf’s studio in Düsseldorf. These somewhat ‘underground’ exhibitions earned us so much love that we were able to survive the careers that awaited us. O ‘Wahrheit ist Arbeit’ [truth is labour] – Was that the exhibition and the book, or even a kind of manifesto? B It was everything. First an exhibition at the Folkwang Museum and a book in the same spirit as the exhibition. Zdenek Felix, then director of the Folkwang Museum, had a great deal of faith in Albert Oehlen and myself. We were able to realize the book entirely on our own, and right to the end he didn’t know what he was going to get. For two thirty-year-olds putting on their first museum show, that’s a risky leap of faith. And of course we understood ‘Wahrheit ist Arbeit’ as one long manifesto, as a cry of “here we are, ready to take over”. A ruthless commentary on the world and the art of that time in crude pictures and texts. At that time, work was not yet on the red list of endangered species. But Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan were already letting financial capitalism off the leash. Due to the lingering illness and subsequent death of socialism, there was then allegedly no alternative to capitalism. And being without any alternative is probably the best thing that can happen to you.

O So it didn’t come from a sense of lack? B As a young person at that time, one was ‘genetically’ left-wing, with a vague romantic love of the working class and of ‘the downtrodden and the slighted’. Maybe due to a guilty conscience, because as an artist one was exempt from hard, alienated labour, one had exempted oneself from it. And artists suddenly started talking about their artistic ‘labour’. In the United States and in Britain there were bloody miners’ strikes, and Martin Kippenberger’s father was the director of a mine. Perhaps that’s why we had the miner’s hammer and pick on the cover of ‘Wahrheit ist Arbeit’, although they were surrounded by flies. And flies always gather wherever there’s a strong smell. It should probably say: “We’re still not through with what we have to do”… O The ‘we’ of a group. After the historical avant-garde of the early twentieth century and the neo-avant-garde of the 1960s, you were now in the 1980s: what was the situation regarding this idea of a group? B At the beginning of the 1980s, sixty or seventy new painters appeared in West Germany. All of a sudden. And those who formed groups were more visible. When you shout together you’re always louder. And if you mercilessly say what you really think of each other, it increases the quality of the product. O How did this self-selected group constellation with you and Martin Kippenberger and Albert Oehlen come to an end? It ended up continuing for a relatively long time, and you somehow also remained friends. B Between the ages of 20 and 30, young men form packs, for obvious reasons: career, challenging the power of the older generations, women, tests of courage, parties, consolidation of worldviews, etc.. If all goes well, this results in lifelong friendships and solidarity. From age 30, the pack begins to fall apart. Biological destiny calls for nestbuilding and reproduction, a state of health worn down by excessive partying sends warning signals, the unfinished process of civilization must be completed with the help of a chosen mate. The tragedy of maturity begins. I was the first to get married, become domesticated and get a tenured professorship in Hamburg. O In your work, the manic commentary takes place not only via painting but also via collage. Over the years, you’ve made quite a few. When did that start? B In 1999 I stopped making my ‘Desastres de la Democracia’ series. I’d lost the damn rubber stamp. After my divorce from my first wife, I was left with her old glossy magazines. I marvelled at the unfamiliar world they contained and then threw them away. But I tore a few pages out and turned them into collages. The birth of a new series, worth continuing ad infinitum … O You’d been working on this series inspired by Goya for twenty years, since 1979. Where did this stamina come from? B It was the ideal form for artistic preaching: A4 format, drawn-on frame, text underlined with a ruler, stamp and signature always in the same place. Unartistic, compulsive, a formula. It earned me a certain amount of scorn from people who think art is a wild ride on non-standard formats. But the formulaic character of the series multiplied my possibilities for evoking the conditions of our existence with text-image combinations. I became a bookkeeper of the horrors of the factual. Hence the length of the series – it was just too tempting.



What is the significance of Goya in your art? You reference him again in a later series of works, “Goya’s Köter” [Goya’s mutt] (illustrated on p. 57). B Spain was ecstatically Catholic. Goya translated this ecstasy into profanity. His court portraits show pitiful characters in the grips of great constraints and pretty shoes that are way too small for their feet. Incest grins at us and makes us receptive to worse. Un idioma universal. ‘Capricios’ and ‘Desastres’ show the gaps in reason where the beastliness of our genetic legacy shines through. His physical acquaintance with the Countess of Alba, a sensual icon of Iberia, and the clemency of the Inquisition towards him can probably both be attributed to Goya’s outrageous good fortune. He was without a doubt the first painter not to cave in to the laws of his times and to be governed by his conscience. I’m certainly not entirely wrong to admire him. O Another series that is often mentioned and that I’ve been aware of for a long time is ‘The Russian Revolution – from hearsay and in oil’. It seems there are links here to your East German past. What meaning does seriality have for you? B Seriality means freedom from horror vacui in front of the canvas. Once you decide to make a series, because you believe it belongs in the world, then you can stop racking your brains for a while. I’ve made three series of paintings: ‘The problems of minigolf in European painting’, ‘The ever-present rustle of bacteria’ and ‘The Russian Revolution – from hearsay and in oil’. The latter centres on a big painting, ‘Storming the Winter Palace’, that shows an exploded wardrobe with a little tsar in one compartment. Plus thirty smaller pictures with keywords and key scenes from the Revolution, electrification, Kronstadt, family executions, Stalin, etc.. In other words, the dead stock of the historical narrative. These are abysmally subjective history paintings that have nothing to do with my past in East Germany. What is serial about them, one might say, is the constant, identical author and his ever-pestering sense of life. Artists are historical witnesses to their own sense of life, and unlike other people they are willing and able to testify. The long years in the witness box may then appear repetitive and serial. But there is a difference between mindless, commercial seriality and existential seriality that heroically embraces its theme and sings its praises consistently and unceasingly. O Pictures like ‘The Odyssey’, ‘Maria Magdalena, Full of Regrets’ (illustrated on pages 61 and 58) and ‘Biblical Scourge’ allude to Greek mythology and Christian figures. Do you have a particular interest in mythological themes at the moment? B Something like 95 percent of the pictures kept by museums in the West can be traced back to the Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian stories. In these narratives, the human passions have been exhaustively mapped, enumerated and illustrated. And in my view, there’s no human passion that goes unmentioned. As a painter, you can’t ignore that. These topoi are (still) well-known, making them universal in the best sense, meaning broadly understandable. Sometimes my students complain that “everything has already been painted”. And I can only answer: wrong. Happily, the repertoire of human passions is limited, but every generation reworks, stages and comments on this finite repertoire of passions in new ways. The game will only be over when we have all died out. So I may occasionally be tempted to make a painting that offers a new take on the ‘repentant sinner’ or the ‘lauded murderous hero’. Painting is a visual register of the same old passions, drawn from the ‘deep well of history’ which Thomas Mann called ‘almost fathomless’.


Your latest pictures are thematically manylayered. Does the inspiration come from your experience of the world, the “funfair of earthly phenomena” you mentioned before? B My ‘experience of the world’ consists of my own view of the world plus the reports about it that reach me in the form of texts and pictures. So there’s one’s own apparatus that is forced to ‘travel the world’ and there is the ‘travel guide’ consisting of second-hand views from other people, most of them dead. Without a travel guide, it is said, you don’t see what’s essential, what’s justifiably spectacular. Once your eye is trained, your gaze honed, you sometimes see things worth recording even without a travel guide. In the park in Geesthacht, I once saw an anorexic woman feeding the ducks in the lake. The situation was shockingly wrong and shockingly right. I then tried to make what I had seen into a painting. The result is the picture ‘Anorexic, Feeding Ducks’. A new motif, perhaps the first anorexic person in the history of painting. But the passion behind anorexia is age-old. To be beautiful, to be attractive. Combined in this case with misdirected parental care. O Animals like chickens, donkeys and dogs often feature in your works. Is the animal a form or a result of expression? B According to our laws, animals are things and according to our religions they are our subordinates. Within the framework of today’s restrictions, we can therefore do with them as we please. The beauty of the human body is gone in a flash, and the development of the beauty of the soul, the only sensible answer to the decay of the body, cannot be depicted. Since I don’t wish to portray the decay of the human body, I sometimes use animals, whose bodies don’t decay as visibly as ours, for similes and allegories. As far as we know, they also have no soul. And what we know about our own souls is holistic and vague. With similes and allegories, then, one avoids the danger of uttering apodictic, un-aesthetic nonsense. Plants are also susceptible to such painterly misuse. But that’s a different history of painting. I’m afraid I haven’t answered your question. O I’ve heard that a whole host of found objects, your books and your works both old new are all collected at this house in the countryside. Sounds like an artist’s museum. B It’s an old hotel, built around 1880. The best thing about it is the former ballroom, 800 square metres, which is now a fairly luxurious studio, a dance floor exclusively for me and my brushes. In Germany’s evil period, the Alliance of Red Front Fighters held meetings there, and a Communist cover organization, the ‘Hope’ choral society. The hotel itself has just 600 square metres. I had a few walls removed to make large rooms that function as ‘private showrooms’. There is something of a small provincial museum about it. O Apropos collecting: I always wanted to know more about the ‘Sperm Bank for GDR Refugees’. Because it’s topical. There’s this dramatist, Vegard Vinge, who works with Ida Müller, they call themselves Vinge & Müller. And they’ve made a theatre piece, post-Schlingensief, that centres on a sperm bank. How did yours work? B It was a small work by Albert Oehlen, Georg Herold and myself. At the time, the propaganda war between East and West Germany was fierce and ugly. The GDR was expelling artists and political activists, who were then jubilantly welcomed in the West. If a whole country jubilantly welcomes a few people, they must be precious people and their sperm should be collected. So we founded the ‘Sperm Bank for GDR


Refugees’. It was a sign under glass with the words ‘Samenbank für DDR-Flüchtlinge’ and a doorbell button stuck to the glass. That was it. A shell company. O As a professor in Hamburg, you’ve taught many students. What advice do you like to give to young artists? B It differs from student to student. Each individual has different rumours about in art her head, a different aesthetic socialisation, different quirks which may possibly be used and transferred into artistic tradition. The attention of female students must be drawn in particular to be problem of shamelessness. Shamelessness is the basic prerequisite for a career in art. You stand up and say: “All eyes on me!” For women in the last 40,000 years, shamelessness has meant risking life and limb. Which is why Georg Baselitz was wrong when he said “women can’t paint”. Compared with him, they just have an understandable deficit where shamelessness is concerned. Generally, the goal is to be free of fear. That should be the goal for everyone, but because artists are expected to display risky and deviant social behaviour, they have entirely different starting conditions for relinquishing fear. Strange how they so rarely succeed. Besides getting free of fear, the aim is to rebelliously reinterpret antiquated truths, exhausted dogmas and tenacious artistic platitudes. And at the end, to taste the secret of personal despotism based on an awareness of history. A mysterious destination, not entirely free of contradictions. O What’s your next big project? B To become wiser. To become desireless. To prepare for retirement. That latter can cause mental turbulence, like puberty and the midlife crisis. Sensibly enough, people want not to be loved, which only a few succeed in achieving, but to be needed, a wish that is granted to the majority. O Any unrealized dreams or utopias? B In the Bible it says: “Set your house in order, for you shall die, and not live.” I’ve seen too many people die unprepared, they left behind mess and trouble. I don’t want that to happen to me. A few more pictures, a few more books, complete my catalogue raisonné. Identify and get rid of unnecessary ballast. Create a foundation, current working title ‘Foundation for Disturbers of Stupor’. Think up a death notice in my own name, to take leave of myself publically. Design and build a mausoleum. O A real mausoleum? B A classical mausoleum. There are certain achievements of humanity that I can respect. We don’t let corpses lie, we subject them to rituals. We wash the faeces and urine off them to re-establish a modicum of dignity. We try to portray the deceased life as fulfilled. That’s very touching of us, because we know or suspect that our lives are cold-heartedly wasted to perpetuate the principle of ‘life’ while the individual serves only to augment the topsoil. I’m working with two young architects, and soon we’re going to look at suitable plots in Ohlsdorf Cemetery, the world’s largest park cemetery that was recently given listed status. The perfect location for my final piece of real estate as ‘care of the self’ rendered in stone, beyond the banal fact of dying. O And is it ironic? B If so, then it’s objective irony. By going against the irony of fate – to augment the topsoil – and denying the soil my earthly remains. What else the building might and should express will become clear while I’m planning it. Always bearing in mind that the irony of reality, against which our ideals are regularly shattered, is an accursedly talented opponent.

Works 2014 – 2017


[ 22 ]

A Flogged Horse, 2016

[ 23 ]

Gone up in Smoke, 2017


[ 24 ]

Detesting More than One Can Stomach, 2015


[ 25 ]

“Made in Germany” this Time, 2016


[ 26 ]

Holding Loop in the Void, 2015

[ 27 ]

The Monster’s Early Cuteness, 2014


[ 28 ]

Diets – Scourge of Postmodernity, 2017


[ 29 ]

Goya’s Mutt Revisited, 2017

[ 30 ]

Mary Magdalene, Full of Regrets, 2016


[ 31 ]

Tender Portrayal of the Serial Killer, 2017


[ 32 ]

The Odyssey – Murders Extolled in Shining Song, 2017

[ 33 ]

Storm-tossed Pineapple, 2017


[ 34 ]

Thank You France (for Monsieur Monet and Lascaux Cave), 2017


[ 35 ]

On Thrownness and Entanglement, 2017

[ 36 ]

Man’s Droll Friend (Polish Crested Chicken), 2017


[ 37 ]

The Statement of the Carnivores, 2017


[ 38 ]

Plenty of Room for All Sorts of Happiness, 2017

[ 39 ]

Cage Scene, 2017


[ 40 ]

Ending as a Trophy, 2017


[ 41 ]

Beings Seeking to Root, 2017

[ 42 ]

Disfavored by Life, 2017



List of Works

[ 11 ] [ 12 ]

Still Life with Fruit and Monument to the Grower | Stilleben mit Obst und Erzeugerdenkmal | 1985 Oil on canvas | 59 × 47 in, 150 × 120 cm | signed recto | → p. 26 Still Life with Pigs and Peppers | Stilleben mit Schweinen und Pfefferoni | 1988 Oil on canvas | 75 × 59 in, 190 × 150 cm | signed recto | → p. 27

[ 13 ] Nude with Vulture | Akt mit Geier | 1984 Oil on canvas | 69 × 69 in, 175 × 175 cm signed recto | → p. 29 [ 14 ] [ 15 ] [ 16 ] [ 1 ] [ 2 ]

Blanket with Burn Holes and Reindeer Antlers with Notes | Decke mit Brandlöchern und Rentierschaufel mit Notizen | 1981 Oil on canvas | 32 × 28 in, 80 × 70 cm | signed recto | → p. 11 In the Vineyard (Triptych) | Im Weinberg (Triptychon) | 1981 Oil on canvas | 71 × 154 in, 180 × 390 cm | signed recto | → p. 12/13

[ 3 ]

Maternité | Maternité | 1983 Oil on canvas | 75 × 59 in, 190 × 150 cm | signed recto | → p. 14

[ 4 ]

Still Life with Armchair and Souvenir Photo | Stilleben mit Sessel und Erinnerungsfoto | 1984 Oil on canvas | 59 × 75 in, 150 × 190 cm | signed recto | → p. 15

[ 5 ] [ 6 ] [ 7 ] [ 8 ] [ 9 ] [ 10 ]

Nursing Woman | Stillende | 1984 Oil on canvas | 59 × 75 in, 150 × 190 cm | signed recto | → p. 16 Welfare State Impression | Sozialstaatimpression |

Woman with Delicate Little Profession | Frau mit kleinem, feinem Beruf | 1988 Oil on canvas | 59 × 47 in, 150 × 120 cm | signed recto | → p. 30 Run-over Hippie in the Egyptian Style | Überfahrender Hippie im ägyptischen Stil | 1988 Oil on canvas | 59 × 47 in, 150 × 120 cm | signed recto | → p. 31 Rumour and Counter-Rumour | Gerücht und Kontergerücht | 1985 Oil on canvas | 59 × 47 in, 150 × 120 cm | signed recto | → p. 32

[ 17 ]

Puddle | Pfütze | 1989 Oil on canvas | 59 × 59 in, 150 × 150 cm | signed recto | → p. 33

[ 18 ]

Disappointed Pupil Leaves the House of Luxury | Ein enttäuschter Elève verlässt das Haus von Luxus |

[ 19 ]


Oil on canvas | 59 × 75 in, 150 × 190 cm | signed recto | → p. 34

Self-Portrait as a Little Angel of Hate | Selbst als Hass-Engelchen | 1988 Oil on canvas | 75 × 59 in, 190 × 150 cm | signed recto | → p. 35

[ 20 ]

Thirst | Durst | 1989 Oil on canvas | 75 × 75 in, 190 × 190 cm | signed recto | → p. 37

[ 21 ]

Self-Portrait in De Chirico Pose | Selbst in DeChirico-Pose | 1989 Oil on canvas | 59 × 47 in, 150 × 120 cm | signed recto | → p. 38


Oil on canvas | 59 × 47 in, 150 × 120 cm | signed recto | → p. 17

Bathing Russians (Diptych) | Badende Russen (Diptychon) | 1984 Oil on canvas | 75 × 189 in, 190 × 480 cm | signed recto | → p. 18/19 Self-Portrait, Praising Creation | Selbst, die Schöpfung preisend | 1986 Oil on canvas | 95 × 75 in, 240 × 190 cm | signed recto | → p. 21 Laundry and Washerwomen (Diptych) | Wäsche und Wäscherinnen (Diptychon) | 1985 Oil on canvas | each 59 × 75 in, 150 × 190 cm | signed recto | → p. 22/23 Storming the Bastille | Sturm auf die Bastille | 1986 Oil on canvas | 75 × 95 in, 190 × 240 cm | signed recto | → pp. 24/25


[ 22 ]

A Flogged Horse | Ein geschundener Gaul | 2016 Oil on canvas | 75 × 59 in, 150 × 120 cm | signed recto | → p. 47

[ 23 ]

Gone up in Smoke | Verdampfung | 2017 Oil on canvas | 59 × 47 in, 150 × 120 cm | signed recto | → p. 48

[ 24 ]

Detesting More than One Can Stomach | Man verachtet mehr als man verkraften kann | 2015 Oil on canvas | 59 × 47 in, 150 × 120 cm | signed recto | → p. 49

[ 25 ] [ 26 ] [ 27 ] [ 28 ]

“Made in Germany” this Time | Diesmal „Made in Germany“ | 2016 Oil on canvas | 59 × 75 in, 150 × 190 cm | signed recto | → p. 51 Holding Loop in the Void | Warteschleife am Nichts |


Oil on canvas | 59 × 75 in, 150 × 190 cm | signed recto | → p. 53

The Monster’s Early Cuteness | Des Scheusals Anfangsniedlichkeit | 2014 Oil on canvas | 59 × 47 in, 150 × 120 cm |signed recto | → p. 54 Diets – Scourge of Postmodernity | Diät – Geißel der Postmoderne | 2017 Oil on canvas | 59 × 47 in, 150 × 120 cm |signed recto | → p. 55

[ 29 ]

Goya’s Mutt Revisited | Goyas Köter Revisited | 2017 Oil on canvas | 75 × 59 in, 190 × 150 cm | signed recto | → p. 57

[ 30 ]

Mary Magdalene, Full of Regrets | Maria Magdalene, voll der Reue | 2016 Oil on canvas | 59 × 47 in, 150 × 120 cm |signed recto | → p. 58

[ 31 ] [ 32 ] [ 33 ] [ 34 ]

Tender Portrayal of the Serial Killer | Zarte Darstellung des Serienkillers | 2017 Oil on canvas | 59 × 47 in, 150 × 120 cm | signed recto | → p. 59 The Odyssey – Murders Extolled in Shining Song | Die Odyssee – glänzend besungene Morde | 2017 Oil on canvas | 95 × 75 in, 240 × 190 cm | signed recto | → p. 61 Storm-tossed Pineapple | Sturmumtoste Ananas |


Oil on canvas | 59 × 47 in, 150 × 120 cm | signed recto | → p. 62

Thank You France (for Monsieur Monet and Lascaux Cave) | Danke Frankreich (für Monsieur Monet und Höhle Lascaux) | 2017 Oil on canvas | 59 × 47 in, 150 × 120 cm | signed recto | → p. 63

[ 35 ]

On Thrownness and Entanglement | Von Geworfenheit und Verstrickung | 2017 Oil on canvas | 75 × 95 in, 190 × 240 cm | signed recto | → pp. 64/65 [ 36 ]

Man’s Droll Friend (Polish Crested Chicken) | Ein drolliger Freund des Menschen (Polnisches Haubenhuhn) | 2017 Oil on canvas | 59 × 47 in, 150 × 120 cm | signed recto | → p. 66

[ 37 ] [ 38 ]

The Statement of the Carnivores | Das Statement der Carnivoren | 2017 Oil on canvas | 59 × 47 in, 150 × 120 cm | signed recto | → p. 67 Plenty of Room for All Sorts of Happiness | Viel Raum für allerlei Glück | 2017 Oil on canvas | 95 × 75 in, 240 × 190 cm | signed recto | → p. 69

[ 39 ]

Cage Scene | Käfigszene | 2017 Oil on canvas | 59 × 47 in, 150 × 120 cm | signed recto | → p. 70

[ 40 ]

Ending as a Trophy | Ein Ende als Trophäe | 2017 Oil on canvas | 59 × 47 in, 150 × 120 cm | signed recto | → p. 71

[ 41 ]

Beings Seeking to Root | Wurzelwillige | 2017 Oil on canvas | 75 × 75 in, 190 × 190 cm | signed recto | → p. 73

[ 42 ]

Disfavored by Life | Vom Leben Defavorisiertes |


Oil on canvas | 59 × 47 in, 150 × 120 cm | signed recto | → p. 74


Werner Büttner

Selected Solo Exhibitions

1954 Born in Jena, Germany. Professor at the University of Fine Arts Hamburg. Lives and works near Hamburg.


Plenty of Room for all Sorts of Happiness, Marlborough, London Poor Souls, Marlborough Chelsea, New York Boucle d’attente dans le néant, Galerie Eva Meyer, Paris The Marking of the Abyss, Marlborough Contemporary, London Die Zeit versklavt uns mit Hoffnung, Galerie Figge von Rosen, Berlin • Kunstepidemie – Büttner und Scolari, Galerie Feinkunst Krüger, Hamburg Werner Büttner, Weserburg Museum, Bremen • Werner Büttner-Gemeine Wahrheiten, ZKM | Museum für neue Kunst, Karlsruhe Die Avantgarde von hinten, Marion Meyer Contemporain, Paris • Werner Büttner, Marion Meyer Contemporain at ArtBrussels Bilanzpromenade, Galerie Hans Mayer, Düsseldorf • Galerie Marion Meyer, Paris • Wetterfester Schmetterling, Galerie Bärbel Grässlin, Frankfurt am Main El baile de los parásitos, Galería Heinrich Ehrhardt, Madrid • Gerocktes Haus, Galerie Hohenlohe, Vienna KOMPROMAT (Kompromittierendes Material), Kunsthalle Dominikanerkirche, Osnabrück Hello cruel world, Kunstverein Bremerhaven • Polizeichef Hegel, Galerie Bärbel Grässlin, Frankfurt am Main Welcome to accès interdit, FRAC Poitou-Charentes, Angoulême • Les diables de chacun, Espace Sainte-Croix, Loudun Werner Büttner – Gemälde und Zeichnungen aus den 80er Jahren, Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin • Werner Büttner – Verkehrte Welt, Deichtorhallen, Hamburg Das Fleisch organisiert sich selbst, Galerie Christine König, Vienna Galerie Bärbel Grässlin, Frankfurt am Main • Globuli, Maximilian Verlag Sabine Knust, Munich Werner Büttner Neue Arbeiten, Galerie Ascan Crone, Hamburg Galerie Michael Janssen, Cologne • Städtische Museen / Romantikerhaus, Jena Einseitig gedeckter Tisch, Galerie Helga Maria Klosterfelde, Hamburg

2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2008

2007 2006 2005 2004 2003

2001 2000 1998 1997 1996



1993 1992 1991 1990

1989 1988





Kunstverein Hamburg • Heimspiel, Arbeiten aus der Sammlung Grässlin 1980 – 1995, Kunstraum Grässlin St. Georgen • Heute scheint die Sonne in Strömen, Galerie Bärbel Grässlin, Frankfurt am Main Vom Raufhandel der Seelen um dero Frieden, KRaum Daxer, Munich • Miserere, (with Herold), Kunsthalle and Galerie Ritter, Klagenfurt Malen ist Wahlen, (with Kippenberger, A. Oehlen) Kunstverein, Munich Hubert Kiecol, Galerie Peter Pakesch, Vienna • Galerie Max Hetzler, Cologne • Galerie Grässlin Ehrhardt, Frankfurt am Main Kampf dem Verderb, Jänner Galerie, Vienna • Recent reasonable stuff of our century, Kerlin Gallery, Belfast • Points in time, Galerie Paul Andriesse, Amsterdam • Jedes Leben ist auch ein verpfuschtes Leben, Galerie Ascan Crone, Hamburg Galerie Max Hetzler, Cologne • Das wichtige Schwarzweiß, Städtisches Kunstmuseum, Reutlingen What about having our mother back, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London • Galerie Ascan Crone, Hamburg • Deutsche Städte vor dem Wiederaufbau (with Kiecol), Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne; PPS Galerie F.C. Gundlach, Hamburg • Stilleben, Galerie Grässlin-Ehrhardt, Frankfurt am Main Viva Büttner, Galerie Max Hetzler, Cologne • Bilder und einige Skulpturen, Kunstverein München im Museum Villa Stuck, Munich; Museum Folkwang, Essen • Druckgraphik und Arbeiten auf Papier, Maximilian Verlag Sabine Knust, Munich • Galerie Peter Pakesch, Vienna • Und das Meer lag da wie Nudeln aus Gold und Silber, Palais Liechtenstein, Vienna • Die Menschen können so nett zueinander sein, müssen aber nicht, Galerie Ursula Schurr, Stuttgart • Wir haben Grund zu der Annahme, daß ALLE Avantgardisten im Kopfrechnen schwach, in Religion dagegen sehr gut hatten, Oldenburger Kunstverein, Oldenburg • Und immer rascheln die Bakterien…, Galerie Susan Wyss, Zurich Wie aber enden solche Geschichten, Galerie Grässlin-Ehrhardt, Frankfurt am Main • Galerie Crousel-Hussenot, Paris • Half an Hour of Modern Art, Metro Pictures, New York • Halbe Stunde moderne Kunst und andere versammelte Werke, Galerie Borgmann Capitain, Cologne Schmuck – die optimale Dimensionierung des Menschen mit mineralischen Mitteln, CADA , Munich • Mit der Harley nach Genezareth – die gesamte Druckgrafik (with A.Oehlen), Evangelische Akademie, Hamburg • Forum Kunst, Rottweil • Kosmoprolet, Galerie Peter Pakesch, Vienna • 55 Thesen (Qualität ist der Schatten der Intelligenz) und 1 Skulptur (und verhüte auch, daß ich überheblich werde), Galerie Thomas Borgmann, Cologne • Das Auge auf’s Kleine und die Großen auf’s Auge, Galerie Max Hetzler, Cologne • Metro Pictures, New York • Werner Büttner und Luigi Ontani, Galerie Ascan Crone, Hamburg • Von Händen und Eiern, Galerie Paul Andriesse, Amsterdam • Zwei Häuser (with A. Oehlen), Galerie Wanda Reiff, Maastricht Galería Heinrich Ehrhardt, Madrid • La Luta Continua, Drei Beispiele, Galerie Max Hetzler, Cologne • Maximilian Verlag Sabine Knust, Munich



1981 1979

Zeichnungen und Linolschnitte, Maximilian Verlag Sabine Knust, Munich • Das blaue Männchen von Schnelsen – ein Kranker Galerie Ascan Crone, Hamburg • Galerie Helen von der Meij, Amsterdam • Jenseits konstanter Bemühungen um braven Erfolg (with A. Oehlen), Produzentengalerie, Hamburg • Die Probleme des Minigolfs in der europäischen Malerei, Galerie Max Hetzler, Cologne Wiederholung der Information kompensiert den darüberliegenden Lärm, Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin • Rechts blinken – links abbiegen (with A.Oehlen), nGbK – neue Gesellschaft für bildende Kunst, Berlin Galerie Max Hetzler, Stuttgart Enthemmungsprozesse äußern sich am Anfang immer als gute Laune, Fettstrasse 7a., Hamburg

Selected Group Exhibitions


Invention of the New Wild, Ludwig Forum for International Art, Aachen • Becoming Animal, Den Frie Centre of Contemporary Art, Copenhagen; The Museum of Religious Art, Lemvig Zeitgeist, Musée d’art moderne et contemporain, Geneva • The History Show, Kunstverein Hamburg Elective Affinities, Exhibition Hall Arsenals, Riga • Portraits of Professions, Manifesta 11, Zurich • Nieuwe Wilden, Groninger Museum, Groningen • Colliding Alien Cargo, Marlborough Chelsea, New York Die 80er: Figurative Malerei in der BRD , Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main • The Funnies, MOT International, Brussels • duh? Art & Stupidity, Focal Point Gallery, Southend on Sea Zeichen gegen den Krieg, Lehmbruck Museum, Duisburg Collage ou l’âge de la colle, Galerie Eva Meyer, Paris Man Ray? Dialog mit zeitgenössischer Kunst, Marion Meyer Contemporain, Frankfurt am Main Le Paris Bar à Paris, Suzanne Tarasieve, Paris Wahrheit ist Arbeit, Büttner, Kippenberger, Oehlen und ein Werk von Herold, Arbeiten aus der Sammlung Falckenberg, Villa Schöningen, Potsdam • Jeder Künstler ist ein Mensch! – Position des Selbstportraits, Staatliche Kunsthalle BadenBaden • The Fate of Irony, KAI 10, Raum für Kunst der Arthena Foundation, Düsseldorf • Weisser Schimmel, PhönixHallen, Hamburg • Jeder Künstler ist ein Mensch! Position des Selbstportraits, Staatliche Kunsthalle, Baden-Baden Miniaturen, Galerie Bärbel Grässlin, Frankfurt am Main • Büttner, Kippenberger, Albert et Markus Oehlen, Galerie Marion Meyer, Paris • Männer Frauen, Kunstraum Grässlin und Räume für Kunst, St. Georgen • Extended, ZKM | Museum für neue Kunst, Karlsruhe • Vertrautes Terrain. Aktuelle Kunst in/über Deutschland, ZKM | Museum für neue Kunst, Karlsruhe MMKK Länderspiel-Kunst im Spiel, Museum Moderner Kunst Kärnten, Klagenfurt • Bad Painting – good art, mumok – Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna • Vertrautes Terrain-Collectors’ Choice, ZKM | Museum für neue Kunst, Karlsruhe Goetz meets Falckenberg, Phönix Hallen, Hamburg • Ballermann. Die Austellung, Kunsthalle, Kiel

2017 2016


2014 2013 2012 2011 2010





2005 Vida de una leyenda-Marilyn Monroe, Centro Cultural de la Villa de Madrid • Mots d’ordre mots de passe, Espace Paul Ricard, Paris • La nouvelle peinture allemande, Carré d’Art Musée d’art contemporain, Nîmes • Flashback. Eine Revision der Kunst der 80er Jahre, Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Kunstmuseum Basel • Rundlederwelten, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin 2004 Obsessive Malerei – Ein Rückblick auf die “Neuen Wilden”, ZKM | Museum für neue Kunst, Karlsruhe 2003 Sand in der Vaseline – Künstlerbücher II, Krefelder Kunstmuseen; Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt; Neues Museum – Staatliches Museum für Kunst und Design, Nürnberg • Lieber zu viel als zu wenig, nGbK – neue Gesellschaft für bildende Kunst, Berlin • Der Augenblick ist Ewigkeit, Kunsthalle Villa Kobe, Halle/Saale 2002 Klopfzeichen-Kunst und Kultur der 80er Jahre in Deutschland. Mauersprünge und Wahnzimmer, Museum der bildenden Künste, Leipzig; Museum Folkwang, Essen 2001 Vom Eindruck zum Ausdruck – Grässlin Collection, Deichtorhallen Hamburg • Ziviler Ungehorsam, Kestner Gesellschaft, Hannover • Sammlung Falckenberg-Pumphaus, PhönixHallen, Hamburg 2000 Artistenmetaphysik – Friedrich Nietzsche in der Kunst der Nachmoderne, Haus am Waldsee, Berlin 1999 Zoom – Ansichten zur deutschen Gegenwartskunst, Sammlung Landesbank Baden-Württemberg, Galerie Landesbank Baden-Württemberg, Stuttgart; Kunsthalle Kiel • My name. Sammlung Falckenberg, Museum der bildenden Künste, Leipzig 1998 Fast forward: image, Kunstverein Hamburg • Die Macht des Alters. Strategien der Meisterschaft, Deutsches Historisches Museum, Kronprinzenpalais Berlin; Kunstmuseum Bonn; Galerie der Stadt, Stuttgart 1997 Home Sweet Home, Deichtorhallen, Hamburg • Deutschlandbilder, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin Hommage à Kippenberger, Galería Juana de Aizpuru, Madrid • Hamburg Leuchtfeuer, Deichtorhallen Hamburg 1995 Armuts Zeugnisse-Darstellung der Armut in der Kunst des 20 Jahrhunderts, Fritz-Hüser Institut im Museum am Ostwall, Dortmund • Heimspiel, Arbeiten aus der Sammlung Grässlin, St. Georgen 1994 Büttner, Förg, Herold, A. Oehlen, M. Oehlen, Klemens Gasser, Bolzano-Bozen 1993 Miserere, (with Georg Herold), Kunsthalle Ritter, Klagenfurt 1992 Malen ist Wahlen, (with M. Kippenberger, A. Oehlen), Kunstverein München, Munich 1991 Metropolis, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin • Gullivers Reisen, Galerie Sophia Ungers, Cologne • Berlin Paris Bar, Galerie Artcurial, Paris 1990 Zeichnungen 1, Grazer Kunstverein, Graz • Ausgewählte Graphik (with J. Immendorff, A.R. Penck), Galerie Schurr, Stuttgart 1989 Natura Naturata, an argument for Still Life, Josh Baer Gallery, New York • The BiNational-German Art of the late Eighties, The Minneapolis Institute of the Arts, Minneapolis; Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston; Aschenbach Galerie, Amsterdam; Museum of Contemporary Art, Belgrade • Neue Figuration-Deutsche Malerei 1960-88, Kunstmuseum Düsseldorf; Kunsthalle Schirn, Frankfurt am Main

1988 Multiples, Galerie Daniel Buchholz, Cologne • Skulpturenprojekte Dürr – Broken Neon, Galerie Christoph Dürr, Munich; Galerie Sylvana Lorenz, Paris • Exchange: Ireland-Deutschland, Guinness Hop Store, Dublin • A la surface de la peinture les années 80, Centre d’Art Contemporain, Abbaye St. André, Meymac, Corrèze • Büttner/ Kiecol: Gemeinsame Arbeiten, Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne • BiNationale/The BiNational, Deutsche/Amerikanische Kunst der späten achtziger Jahre, Kunsthalle Düsseldorf; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston • Der Hang zur Architektur in der Malerei der Gegenwart, Deutsches Architektur Museum, Frankfurt am Main • Arbeit in Geschichte, Geschichte in Arbeit, Kunsthaus and Kunstverein, Hamburg • M. Oehlen, A. Oehlen, M. Kippenberger, W. Büttner, Galerie Susan Wyss, Zurich • Deutsche Kunst der späten 80er Jahre, Stadtliche Kunsthalle, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen and Kunstverein Düsseldorf • New Prints from Germany, Saint Louis Art Museum 1987 Neue Kunst in Hamburg 1987, Kampnagelgelände, Hamburg • Q.U.I, Le radius kronenbourg (with A. Oehlen, M. Oehlen, M. Kippenberger), Villa Arson, Nice • Broken Neon, Steirischer Herbst 87, Forum Stadtpark, Graz • Auf der Spur – Sammlung Stober, Haus am Waldsee, Berlin 1986 Deutsche Malerei der Gegenwart, Galeria Comicos, Lisbon • Macht und Ohnmacht der Beziehungen, Museum am Ostwall, Dortmund • Neue deutsche Kunst aus der Sammlung Ludwig, Aachen, Haus Metternich, Koblenz • Können wir vielleicht mal unsere Mutter wiederhaben! (with G. Herold und A. Oehlen), Kunstverein Hamburg; and as What about having our Mother back!, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London • Druckgraphik 1970 – 85, Grazer Kunstverein; Galerie im Stadthaus, Klagenfurt; Kunsthalle, Wilhelmshaven • New Visions in Contemporary Art: The RSM Company Collection, Cincinnati Art Museum • Die Wahlverwandschaften-Zitate, Steirischer Herbst 86, Forum Stadtpark, Graz 1985 Annemarie-und-Will-Grohmann-Stipendium, Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden • La nouvelle Biennale de Paris, Paris • Treppen, Galerie Kammer, Hamburg • Anni ottanta, Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Bologna • W. Büttner A. Oehlen, M. Oehlen, M. Kippenberger, studio d, Tübingen • Tiefe Blicke, Kunst der achtziger Jahre aus der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, der DDR, Österreich und der Schweiz, Hessisches Landesmuseum, Darmstadt 1984 Wahrheit ist Arbeit (with A. Oehlen and M. Kippenberger), Museum Folkwang, Essen • Zwischenbilanz, Neue Galerie am Joanneum, Graz; Museum Villa Stuck, Munich; Forum für aktuelle Kunst - Galerie Krinzinger, Innsbruck; Rheinisches Landesmuseum, Bonn • Wer überlebt winkt, Bonner Kunstverein; nGbK - neue Gesellschaft für bildende Kunst, Berlin • Sammlung Metzger, Kunsthalle Budapest; Sara Hilden Art Museum, Tampere; Kunstnernes Hus, Oslo • Tiefe Blicke, Hessisches Landesmuseum, Darmstadt • Deutsch-sprechende Galeristinnen, Galerie Six Friedrich, Munich • Origen y Visión: Nueva Pintura Alemana, Centre Cultural de la Caixa des Pensions, Barcelona; Palacio de Velázquez, Madrid; Museo de Arte Moderno; Mexico • Angst vor nice. Ludwigs law (with Kippenberger, A. & M. Oehlen), Metro Pictures, New York • Von hier aus. Zwei Monate neue deutsche Kunst in Düsseldorf, Gesellschaft für aktuelle Kunst, Düsseldorf • Treppen, Galerie Gugu Ernesto, Cologne

1983 Wer diesen Katalog nicht gut findet muß sofort zum Arzt, Galerie Max Hetzler, Stuttgart • Schwerter zu Zapfhähnen, Galerie Peter Pakesch, Vienna • Holz und Linolschnitt heute, Oldenburger Kunstverein, Oldenburg • Die junge Malerei in Deutschland, Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Bologna; Museum Folkwang, Essen • Tendenzen 82, Ulmer Museum, Ulm • W. Büttner, A. Oehlen, M. Oehlen, M. Kippenberger, Metro Pictures, New York • Von hier aus, Messegelände, Düsseldorf • Kunst ist nichts, wenn sie nicht neu ist, Galerie Rolf Ricke, Cologne • Ansatzpunkte kritischer Kunst heute, Bonner Kunstverein, Bonn 1982 12 Künstler aus Deutschland, Kunsthalle Basel; Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam • Über sieben Brücken mußt Du gehen. Mußten wir auch, Galerie Max Hetzler, Stuttgart; Dr Stober, Kutscherhaus, Berlin • Zeitgeist. Internationale Kunstausstellung Berlin, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin • Creme für Hamburg, Fettstrasse 7a, Hamburg • Herbstsalon, Kunsthalle, Cologne 1981 Bildwechsel, Akademie der Künste, Berlin • Junge Kunst aus Westdeutschland ‘81, Galerie Max Hetzler, Stuttgart 1980 2. außerordentliche Veranstaltung in Bild und Klang zum Thema der Zeit: Aktion Pisskrücke (Geheimdienst am Nächsten), Künstlerhaus Weidenallee, Hamburg • Finger für Deutschland, Atelier Jörg Immendorff, Düsseldorf • Mühlheimer Freiheit und interessante Bilder aus Deutschland, Galerie Paul Maenz, Cologne 1979 1. außerordentliche Veranstaltung in Bild und Klang zum Thema der Zeit: Elend, Kippenbergers Büro, Berlin • Enthemmungsprozesse äußern sich am Anfang immer als gute Laune, Fettstr. 7a., Hamburg



• Die 80er. Figurative Malerei in der BRD, Hatje Cantz, Berlin, 2015. • Werner Büttner: Coincidence in Splendour, Black Dog Publishing, London, 2016. • Werner Büttner: My Looting Eye, Black Dog Publishing, London, 2016.

Selected Exhibition Catalogues

Selected Literature

• Werner Büttner and Albert Oehlen, Dum Dum – Nr. 1, 2, 3. Zentralorgan zur Bekämpfung des widersprüchlichen Verhaltens, Hamburg, 1977 – 1979. • Werner Büttner, Georg Herold and Albert Oehlen, Facharbeiterficken. Werner Büttner, Georg Herold, Albert Oehlen: Gemeinsame Arbeiten 79/80/81, Hamburg, 1982. • Wolfgang Max Faust and Gerd de Vries, Hunger nach Bildern, Dumont, Cologne, 1982 • Gerd de Vries. Die Sammlung FER , Buchhandlung Walther König, Cologne, 1983. • Werner Büttner, Schrecken der Demokratie, Buchhandlung Walther König, Cologne, 1983. • Werner Büttner, Martin Kippenberger und Albert Oehlen, Einführung ins Denken, Hamburg, 1984. • Werner Büttner, Schmuck, CADA , Munich, 1985. • Werner Büttner and Albert Oehlen, Angst vor Nice. Ludwig’s Law, Meterverlag, Hamburg, 1985. • Werner Büttner, Havana Moon, Maximilian-Verlag, Munich, 1986. • Werner Büttner, In Praise of Tools and Women, Meterverlag, Hamburg, 1986. • Werner Büttner, Ein Happen für die Wissenden, Meterverlag, Hamburg, 1987. • Werner Büttner, Und das Meer lag da wie Nudeln aus Gold und Silber, Ritter, Klagenfurt, 1987. • Stephan Schmidt-Wulffen, Spielregeln. Tendenzen der Gegenwartskunst, Dumont, Cologne, 1987 • Werner Büttner und Hubert Kiecol, Deutsche Städte vor dem Wiederaufbau, Hamburg, 1988. • Werner Büttner, Friedrich Wolfram Heubach, “Zwei Reden… ins Gebohnerte gehalten an der HfbK zu Hamburg”. Fame & Fortune Bulletin, no.10, Pakesch & Schlebrügge eds., Vienna, (February 1992). • Werner Büttner, “Ratiopharmaka, aber auch Herzmittel, und für die Augen eine bekömmliche Tinktur”. Fame & Fortune Bulletin. no.28, Pakesch & Schlebrügge eds., Vienna, (May 2002). • Uta Grosenick, Werner Büttner. Verkehrte Welt, Taschen, Cologne, 2003. • Werner Büttner, Lohn des Schweigens, Buchhandlung Walther König, Cologne, 2009. • Peter Weibel & A. Beitin, eds, Werner Büttner. Gemeine Wahrheiten, ZKM | Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie, Hatje Cantz, Berlin, 2013. • Düngeschlacht über den Fontanellen, Erziehungsversuche an anderen und am selbst, Galerie Feinkunst Krüger; Textem, Hamburg, 2014.

• Über sieben Brücken mußt Du gehen. Mußten wir auch – Markus Oehlen, Ina Barfuß, Werner Büttner, Georg Herold, Albert Oehlen, Thomas Wachweger, Martin Kippenberger, Galerie Max Hetzler, Stuttgart, 1982. • Rechts blinken – links abbiegen. Werner Büttner, Albert Oehlen, nGbK - neue Gesellschaft für bildende Kunst, Berlin, 1982. • Werner Büttner and Albert Oehlen, Jenseits konstanter Bemühungen um braven Erfolg, Produzentengalerie, Hamburg, 1983. • Werner Büttner, Das blaue Männchen von Schnelsen – ein Kranker, Galerie Ascan Crone, Hamburg, 1983. • Werner Büttner, Die Probleme des Minigolfs in der europäischen Malerei, Galerie Max Hetzler, Cologne, 1983. • Wer diesen Katalog nicht gut findet muß sofort zum Arzt. Werner Büttner, Martin Kippenberger, Albert Oehlen, Markus Oehlen, Galerie Max Hetzler, Stuttgart, 1983. • Werner Büttner, Martin Kippenberger und Albert Oehlen, Wahrheit ist Arbeit, Museum Folkwang, Essen, 1984. • Werner Büttner, La luta continua. Drei Beispiele, Galerie Max Hetzler, Cologne, 1984. • Werner Büttner, Georg Herold und Albert Oehlen, Können wir vielleicht mal unsere Mutter wiederhaben!, Kunstverein, Hamburg; What about having our mother back!, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London; Kellner, Hamburg, 1986. • Werner Büttner, Viva Büttner, Galerie Max Hetzler, Cologne, 1987. • Werner Büttner, Bilder und einige Skulpturen, Kunstverein Munich; Museum Folkwang, Essen, 1987. • le radius kronenbourg. Werner Büttner, Martin Kippenberger, Albert Oehlen, Markus Oehlen, Galerie de la Villa Arson, Nice, 1987. • Günther Gercken, Raffael Jablonka, Thomas Wulfen, Neue Kunst in Hamburg 1987. Kampnagelgelände, Hamburg, 1987. • Werner Büttner – Stilleben, Galerie GrässlinEhrhardt, Frankfurt am Main, 1988. • Werner Büttner. Das wichtige Schwarzweiß, Städtisches Kunstmuseum, Spendhaus Reutlingen, 1989. • Werner Büttner, Kampf dem Verderb, Jänner Galerie, Vienna, 1990. • Helmut Draxler, Hedwig Saxenhuber, Renate Kern and Dietmar Stegemann, Malen ist Wahlen. Büttner, Kippenberger, Oehlen, Kunstverein Munich; Ostfildern-Ruit, Edition Cantz, 1992. • Werner Büttner and Georg Herold, Miserere, Kunsthalle and Galerie Ritter, Klagenfurt, 1993. • Werner Büttner, Vom Raufhandel der Seelen um dero Frieden, Kunstraum Daxer, Munich, 1993. • Werner Büttner and Daniel Richter, Toll, Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam, 1994. • Werner Büttner “Heimspiel”. Arbeiten aus der Sammlung Grässlin 1980 – 1995, Sammlung Grässlin, St. Georgen, 1995. • Thomas Groetz, Werner Büttner. Gemälde und Skulpturen aus den 80er Jahren, Galerie Max Hetzler, Holzwarth-Publ., Berlin, 2003.

• Polizeichef Hegel, Galerie Bärbel Grässlin, Frankfurt am Main, 2005. • Werner Büttner. KOMPROMAT. Kunsthalle Dominikanerkirche, Osnabrück; Rash, Bramsche, 2006. • Werner Büttner, El baile de los parásitos, Galerie Heinrich Ehrhardt, Madrid, 2007. • Werner Büttner. Wetterfester Schmetterling, Galerie Bärbel Grässlin, Frankfurt am Main, 2008. • Wahrheit ist Arbeit, Büttner, Kippenberger, Oehlen und ein Werk von Herold. Arbeiten aus der Sammlung Harald Falckenberg, Villa Schöningen, Potsdam, 2010; Textem, Hamburg, 2011. • Werner Büttner. Die Avantgarde von hinten, Marion Meyer Contemporain, Paris, 2012. • The Marking of the Abyss, Marlborough Contemporary, London, 2015. • Poor Souls, Marlborough Chelsea, New York, 2016.


• Wolfgang Max Faust and Max Raphael. “Gemeinschaftsbilder: ein Aspekt der neuen Malerei; Werner Büttner, Albert und Markus Oehlen, Martin Kippenberger: erschlägt Wirklichkeit Kunst?” Kunstforum International (November 1983): 56-69. • Klaus Honnef. “Werner Büttner.“ Kunstforum International (December 1983): 112 – 9.


• Werner Büttner, Diedrich Diederichsen, Albert Oehlen und Markus Oehlen, Kirche der Ununterschiedlichkeit, Double LP, 1982. • Werner Büttner, Jörg Immendorff, Martin Kippenberger, Albert Oehlen, Markus Oehlen und A.R. Penck, Die Rache der Erinnerung, LP, 1984. • Werner Büttner und Albert Oehlen, Mayo Thompson, Disco Doubt, LP, 1986. • Werner Büttner und Ferdinand Fux, Lousy Days Are Here to Stay, LP, 1987.

• Sofia Silva. “Werner Büttner or Who’s Afraid of Intelligence?”. Turps Banana. (January 2018). • Austin Considine. “Werner Büttner, Marlborough Chelsea”. Art in America. (March 2017): 132. • Roberta Smith. “What to See in New York Galleries This Week” International New York Times. (10 November 2016). • Cressida Meale. “Werner Buttner’s Looting Eye”. (24 January 2016). • Laura Sibbald. “Werner Büttner’s Looting Eye”. (22 January 2016). • Maisie Skidmore. “Pritt Stick and Provocation: Werner Buttner’s Collages”. (11 January 2016). • Andrei Zozulya Davidov. “Books: Werner Büttner My Looting Eye/Coincidence in Splendour”. (17 December 2015). • Gabriel Coxhead. “First London show of German painter since 1986”. Time Out. (17 March 2015). • Burkhard Meier Grolman. “Huge Exhibition for Werner Buttner in the Karlsruhe Medienzentrum ZKM”. tagblatt. (April 2013). • Wolf Jahn. “Werner Buttner”. Artforum international. (December 2003). • Thomas Dreher. “Review of Büttner exhibition at Kunstverein München als Gast im Museum Villa Stuck, Munich.” Kunstwerk (June 1987): 106 – 7. • Reagan Upshaw. “Werner Büttner.” Art in America (November 1985): 167 – 8. • Eleanor Heartney. “Four Germans.” Artnews (February 1985): 140. • Stephan Schmidt Wulffen, “Werner Büttner and Albert Oehlen.” Flash Art (January 1985): 22 –  25. • Donald B. Kuspit. “Review of Büttner, Kippenberger, Albert and Markus Oehlen exhibition at Metro Pictures, New York.” Artforum (January 1985): 90. • Annelie Pohlen. “Review of Büttner exhibition at Galerie Max Hetzler, Cologne.” Artforum (January 1984): 85 – 86. • Lucie Beyeler. “Werner Büttner and Albert Oehlen.” (a review of Büttner exhibition at Galerie Max Hetzler and Oehlen exhibition at Galerie Zwirner, Cologne) Flash Art (January 1984): 41– 42. • P. Frey. “One light feeds the other - thoughts, my own and others - on Werner Buttner and his book ‘The Horrors of Democracy’” Parkett, no 3, 1984.


Selected Collections

Austria Graz Vienna

Neue Galerie mumok - Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig

France Angoulême Limoges Paris

FR AC – Fonds régional d’art contemporain Poitou-Charentes FR AC – Fonds régional d’art contemporain Limousin FR AC – Fonds national d’art contemporain

Germany Aachen Sammlung Ludwig Augsburg Kunstmuseum Walter im Glaspalast Berlin nGbK - neue Gesellschaft für bildende Kunst Bonn Kunstverein Frankfurt Museum für Kommunikation Hamburg Kunsthalle Hamburg Sammlung Falckenberg, Kulturstiftung Phönix Art Karlsruhe Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe ZKM | Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie Jena Städtische Museen Munich Museum Brandhorst Munich Pinakothek der Moderne St Georgen Sammlung Grässlin Stuttgart Staatsgalerie Stuttgart

Great Britain


United States Cambridge, Mass. Cincinnati Cleveland New York

Ulster Museum Busch-Reisinger Museum Art Museum Museum of Art Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

Private collections Cologne Stiftung Michael und Eleonore Stoffel Frankfurt Sammlung Deutsche Bank Leverkusen Sammlung Bayer Zurich Sammlung Thomas Ammann


Colophon Werner Büttner Plenty of Room for all Sorts of Happiness 25 May – 23 June 2018 Marlborough 6 Albemarle Street London W1S 4BY

• • • •

‘No Laughing Matter’ Essay by Barry Schwabsky ‘It all began with a one-night stand’ Interview with Werner Büttner by Hans Ulrich Obrist Photography by Egbert Haneke, def image Berlin, Luke Walker (paintings), and Albrecht Fuchs (portraits) Scans by Dye Transfer International Design by Ingo Offermanns Edited by Philip Wright Printed by COERS & ROEST, ontwerpers bno|drukkers, Arnhem, NL ISBN 978-1-909707-49-8 Catalogue No. 777 © 2018 Werner Büttner VG Bild-Kunst Bonn © 2018 The authors © 2018 Marlborough


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Cover: Werner Büttner A Flogged Horse | Ein geschundener Gaul | 2016 | → p. 47

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Werner Büttner: Plenty of Room for all Sorts of Happiness  
Werner Büttner: Plenty of Room for all Sorts of Happiness