Jörg Immendorf

[05 Aug 2007]


Jörg Immendorff started out in landscape painting, studying with Theo OTTO, before joining the Art Academy in Düsseldorf under Joseph BEUYS. He launched the LIDL movement in 1968, which was censored by the Ministry of Culture the following year. He was thrown out of the academy as a result of the controversy. This incident propelled Immendorf into the big league, and by the time he was featured in documenta 5 in 1972 he was already considered a major artist.

While the artist’s index remained largely unchanged throughout the 1990s, his 2004 retrospective at the Museum Ludwig in Cologne sent it soaring by 147% in just two years. The appetite for Immendorf’s work was such that no-sales fell by 70% and turnover generated at auction went up six-fold. Following his recent death of 28 May, three lots have already sold for more than EUR 100,000 – as many in a few months as in 20 years of trading.

Immendorf’s oeuvre is stamped by his battles against certain policies and his struggle for the cultural identity of the German people. He spent much of the early 1970s protesting against the Vietnam War, and the majority of paintings from this period change hands for between EUR 9,000 and EUR 14,000. The best price ever fetched for one of these was at Lempertz Cologne on 28 May 1999, when a 1967 work, Für alle Lieben in der Welt, went under the hammer at DEM 84,000 (nearly EUR 43,000).

From 1976, the emphasis of his work shifted to the division of Germany. He was very much motivated by his meeting with A.R. Penck, and it was in this period that he produced the Café Deutschland series. The highest price yet achieved by one of these works was USD 35,000 (more than EUR 37,000) for Café Deutschland 38. Parteitag at Sotheby’s New York (November 1986). The 1980s saw Immendorf move towards more symbolic, allegorical painting, continued in the early 1990s with the Café de Flore series. The record for one of these canvases is held by Café de Flore, Malerhochzeit, which sold for EUR 38,000 in December 2006 at Carola Van Ham Cologne. The artist’s record in this category was set at his first auction of 2007; All’s well that ends well (1983) fetched GBP 240,000 (more than EUR 364,000) at Sotheby’s London.

While paintings make up 32% of the works that change hands at auction, the auction houses offer an extensive choice of works on paper; prints account for 43% and drawings for 20%. His coloured linocuts using acrylic on paper on canvas are the most valuable of his multiples. Lempertz Cologne secured EUR 10,000 in 2004 for a work in the Cafe Deutschland series. The record dates back to 1998, when Nagel Stuttgart sold the linocut Heuler for DEM 35,000 (nearly EUR 18,000). Art lovers on a more modest budget can often pick up lithographs from large editions for between EUR 300 and EUR 600. On the other hand, it is now hard to find a drawing for under EUR 5,000, given the rise in the artist’s index since 2004. For example, a gouache from the Café Deutschland measuring less than 30 cm fetched EUR 11,000 at Lempertz in June 2006. A similar piece auctioned by Villa Grisebach in 2003 went for just EUR 2,500.