Jerry Saltz arrived at the Kippenberger retrospective a mild fan and left besotted with the godfather of Contemporary art:
For the past decade, the world has been dominated by a chilly mix of Warhol’s use of culture as material, Richter’s ideas about photographs and abstraction, and Richard Prince’s notions of appropriation. It’s an international style that too many people use to produce art that looks like other art. Kippenberger’s work is powerful enough to scatter that aesthetic weather system. It’s deeply imprinted with received theories about reproduction, popular culture, and photography, but it never feels like it comes out of a cookie cutter. He created his own theory and then blew it to bits. Skepticism was his weapon of aesthetic destruction.
Beyond the art historical significance, Saltz just plain likes the art:
Kippenberger, who died in 1997 at the age of 44 from cirrhosis brought on by his prodigious drinking, was a live wire. He spoke in pungent aphorisms. He called exhibitions “a running gag.” Art schools were “the most stupid of all educational institutions.” The art market was like “screwing your dick to the wall.” (A nude photo of the artist suggests this would have been an extensive task.) [ . . . ] Although there’s much here that comes off as garish or schlocky, I left loving Kippenberger more than ever. People often complain that he never made a single great artwork. On the contrary: In his paintings he’s obviously battling with art history, especially the German variety, but his canvases are visually intense and physically and materially alive, establishing their own powerful conceptual orbits. In his sculpture, he is absolutely free, setting his own agenda—it’s impossible to imagine today’s sculpture without Kippenberger. A grid of 55 early black-and-white canvases of postcards and photos (done while he was in Florence) already shows his sense of subject matter and skill, and his artistic wrestling match with Richter. His 1988 self-portraits—showing himself as big as a blimp, in underpants pulled high—parody macho male painters. The latex paintings with stuff jutting from them are amazements; a 1984 abstraction with a hint of a swastika, provocatively titled With the Best Will in the World, I Can’t See a Swastika, sees that one generation of Germans was trying to forget the symbol while a younger one was coming to terms with its elders’ willed blindness. Either way, the painting is some kind of late-twentieth-century masterpiece.
The Artist Who Did Everything . . . (New York Magazine)