Executed in 1994, this work presents a close-up likeness of American singer and performer Dean Martin (1917-1995), famously nicknamed “The King of Cool” for his dazzling performances and invariable adherence to a hallmark style of sharp suit and tie. Realistic rendering of the work evokes Kippenberger’s multi-panel portraits which synthesised the imagery from popular visual culture with personal memories of the artist. For example, in the seminal painting series titled Uno di Voi, un Tedesco a Firenze(One of You, a German in Florence), executed over a period of three months in Florence in 1976-77, Kippenberger reproduces photographic snapshots from the trip, colliding and juxtaposing diverse autobiographical, cultural and historical references.
Here, the artist radically crops a celebrity portrait highlighting the personal significance of this larger than life personality. Indeed, according to his sister Susanne Kippenberger, the artist often listened to Dean Martin’s music as he was working in his studio (S. Kippenberger, The Artist and His Families, J & L Books, 2011). In portraying Dean Martin, Kippenberger alludes to his enthusiasm for self-portraiture, engaging with the cult of the celebrity and his own carefully crafted public persona. He was known to wear a suit and tie, basking in the political incorrectness of the artist dressed as the businessman. “I am rather like a traveling salesman. I deal in ideas. I do much more for people than just paint them pictures.”
The present work was followed by another painting dedicated to Dean Martin titled Dean Martin Before La Faimglia, 1994, currently in Christian Flick collection. Martin Kippenberger was recently the subject of a major retrospective Bitteschön Dankeschön. Eine Retrospektive at the Bundeskunsthalle in Bonn (1 November 2019 – 16 February 2020). Works by Kippenberger from the 1990s can be found in major public collections, including The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, ZKM Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie, Karlsruhe.