Capitalist realism at Kunsthalle Düsseldorf

Capitalist realism at Kunsthalle Düsseldorf

Grafik des kapitalistischen Realismus, the artwork recently acquired by the MACBA Foundation has a central role in the display of the German exhibition hall


Last 21th July, the exhibition hall Kunsthalle Düsseldorf inaugurated the display that will be on until 29th September: Living with Pop. A Reproduction of Capitalist Realism. The exhibition focuses on the German group kaptialistischen Realismus (capitalist realism), which was founded on 1963 by Sigmar Polke, Gerhard Richter and Konrad Lueg following their exhibition Demostration for a capitalist realism in Düsseldorf.

The group name “capitalist realism” ironically refers to socialist realism, the official artistic doctrine in the USSR at the time. Regarding the artistic trend, the capitalist realism was the German answer to the Pop Art, which was gaining success in the USA and England. These artists’ work focused on trivial aspects of life in their immediate environments. They used a series of images that shape their specific iconography: consumer goods, images used in advertising, interior design, banal everyday objects, pictures of women, portraits, sites of middle-class longing, etc.

Capitalist realism shows an ambivalent attitude towards capitalism. On the one hand, a criticism of the consumerism of the German “economic miracle” and of the politic reality of the occidental democracies of the time lies beneath the works of these artists. In most cases, they use the language of advertising as a tool to attack the consumer society. However, the artists perceived the emancipatory potential of capitalism and, for instance, they used its typical advertising techniques to promote their own artistic careers.

The group began after the 1963 exhibition and, due to the exhibition, a book that gathered images of the displayed works was published. The compilation, entitled Grafik des kapitalistischen Realismus, has a central role in the exhibition at Kunsthalle Düsseldorf because it is essential to understand the group of capitalism realism, as it documents its genesis. Recently, the MACBA Foundation acquired the graphic work included in this book, in its 1967 edition. The obtained work includes creations by KP Brehmer, KH Hödicke, Kondrad Lueg, Sigmar Polke and Gerhard Richter.

On April 2014, the exhibition at Kunthalle Düsseldorf will be shown in the Artists Space in New York. Also in the city of New York, the MoMA will host a retrospective display on Sigmar Polke from March to August 2014.


Gerhard Richter and Konrad Lueg in a still from the exhibition of 1963, Demostration for a capitalist realism