New Wild Painters in the Netherlands
Groninger Museum Shows Neo-Expressive Painting

In the early 1980s, their paintings hit the international art world like a stroke of lightning. Salomé, Rainer Fetting, Helmut Middendorf, Elvira Bach, Albert Oehlen became art stars, representing a new spirit in painting: rebellious, radical, and provocative. But the excitement over the painters from Moritzplatz in Berlin or the “Mülheimer Freiheit” in Cologne cooled down fast. While very few of them, like Martin Kippenberger and Oehlen, continued to play a role in the art discourse, their neo-expressive paintings were dealt and shown, but rarely written about. Only now, around 30 years later, is there growing interest in “Heftige Malerei.” This is shown by the exhibition The 80s. Figurative Painting in West Germany, which following its premiere at the Städel Museum in Frankfurt is now on view at the Groninger Museum under the title New Wild Painters – German Neoexpressionism from the 1980’s. The Deutsche Bank Collection has contributed a number of loans to the show. New Wild Painters illustrates how underappreciated this era of German painting still is and how strongly its anarchist strategies have influenced subsequent generations.

Some 80 paintings by 27 artists, including Elvira Bach, Werner Büttner, Rainer Fetting,  Martin Kippenberger, Salomé, and Bernd Zimmer, are on exhibit in Groningen. It’s the generation that followed the concept-heavy, minimalist 1970s, and it not only called for a return to the canvas, but sought to bring the social revolution into painting, too. Sexual liberation, street fighting, punk: in the late 1970s, major cities like Berlin, Cologne, and Hamburg were in upheaval. And the painters themselves were as varied and full of contradiction as the urban scene they grew out of. The exhibition casts a discerning eye on these various scenes, each of which had a completely different mentality and approach to material: the ironic, cool Hamburgers, the physically expressive Berliners, and the artists from Cologne, who were inspired by Art Brut. Here the “Mülheimer Freiheit” cultivated a dilettantism expressed in works that are primitive, often recalling outsider art, yet always fascinating from a painterly point of view. In Berlin pictures such as Middendorf’s Electric Night (1979) document the important role of punk and subculture. It’s not just the sketchily painted figures in the bright nighttime jungle that appear electrified, but the entire painting glows, too.

Parallel to the New Wild Painters exhibition, a show titled The Wild – Expressionism from Brücke & Der Blaue Reiter is on view at the Museum de Fundatie in nearby Zwolle. Encompassing around 100 works, the show provides the first major overview of early twentieth-century German expressionist painting at a Dutch Museum. Deutsche Bank also supported this show with a loan.

New Wild Painters – German Neo-Expressionism from the 1980s
4/30/2016 – 10/23/2016 at
Museum Groningen

The Wild – Expressionism from “Brücke” & “Der Blaue Reiter”
4/28/2016 – 10/18/2016
Museum de Fundatie, Zwolle