Georg Baselitz (German, born 1938) Heiße Ecke 1987

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Lot 34AR
Georg Baselitz
(German, born 1938)
Heiße Ecke

Sold for £ 497,000 (US$ 676,996) inc. premium
Georg Baselitz (German, born 1938)
Heiße Ecke

signed with the artist's initials and dated 24. XI. 87; signed, titled and dated o 20. XI. 87 + 24. XI. 87 on the reverse
oil on board

122.5 by 101.5 cm.
48 1/4 by 39 15/16 in.


  • This work is registered in the Archive Georg Baselitz, Munich.

    Deweer Art Gallery, Otegem
    Acquired directly from the above by the previous owner in 1989
    Thence by descent to the present owner

    One of Germany's greatest painters of the late Twentieth Century, Georg Baselitz's inimitable style is now recognised around the globe, his paintings and sculptures are held in some of the world's most prestigious public and private collections. Most distinctive is his habit of inverting the subjects of his audacious painterly works, a technique which we see used to such great effect in Heiße Ecke of 1987. Appearing on the open market for the first time, this painting exemplifies Baselitz at this best, a consummate painter in complete control of his medium, constantly challenging what has come before. It certainly shows the clear influences of historic German art, and perhaps includes oblique references to the artist's own life and environment, but more crucially Heiße Ecke (the enigmatic title translates literally as 'Hot Corner') also tests the often ambiguous boundaries between the figurative and the abstract. As a result, it is a work of art which pushes the limits, an important work produced by an artist who is an inveterate explorer of the unknown and the new.

    Despite being a contemporary of other great German artists such as Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke and Anselm Kiefer, all part of a generation of artists who strove to redefine figurative painting in the wake of Abstract Expressionism, Baselitz is often viewed as something of an outsider, the possessor of an independent mind who has forged his own unique path. Curator Michael Auping puts him into context as follows: "It can be argued that of all of these artists – each of whom can be identified with a signature style of art making – Baselitz has been the most forceful and Promethean, in many senses of the term, in carving out his new space of inquiry and reordering" (Michael Auping, 'Portrait of Resistance' in Alberto Cetti Serbelloni Ed., Georg Baselitz: Paintings 1962-2001, Milan 2002, p. 6).

    Born as Hans-Georg Kern in 1938 in Deutschbaselitz, the small village from which he later took his working name, Baselitz began painting at a young age. He established himself as something of a rebel during his brief period of study at the Art Academy of East Berlin in 1958, where his refusal to conform to the principles of Social Realism quickly led to his expulsion on the grounds of 'sociopolitical immaturity'. He continued his studies in West Berlin, where he was to immerse himself in the avant-garde. In 1969 he produced his first 'upside-down' painting, and the style which has since defined his career and reputation was born.

    In Heiße Ecke, a human head, punctuated by piercing blue eyes, hangs suspended, immobile. There is nothing to explain the intriguing title, and the sitter, if it is a portrait at all, remains unclear, but the style in which it is rendered certainly echoes the various artistic movements which have impacted on Baselitz's work. Although he prefers not to label himself as an Expressionist, the thick brushstrokes and warm palette used here, those broad slashes of hot orange, yolk yellow and cobalt blue, recall the work of earlier German painters such as Alexei von Jawlensky and Ludwig Kirchner. These rich colours and those confident, dynamic dashes of oil only add to the intensity of this work, lending the panel an imposing monumentality which belies its actual dimensions. The style we see here is also reminiscent of Art Brut, the painting's polychrome forms expressed with a naïf relish. It is this unique approach that catapulted Baselitz onto the world stage; although in the late 1980s he was largely exhibiting in Europe, by the 1990s and 2000s his work was appearing in solo and group shows in New York, Shanghai, Mexico and Moscow. Today his paintings are held in the Tate Gallery, London, the Guggenheim in New York and the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, as well as many of Germany's most prestigious art institutions.

    In his 'inverted' paintings, such as the present work, Baselitz intended first to unsettle and confound, then to open our eyes to new ways of viewing the world. He aimed to produce images devoid of traditional associations or implications, art which paradoxically utilises elements of the representational while enjoying the freedoms of abstraction: "I have always seen my paintings as independent from meanings with regard to contents – and also independent from associations that could result from them. If one pursues the logical conclusion of that thought, then it follows that if one needs a tree, a person, or a cow in the picture, but without meaning, without contents, the one simply takes it and turns it upside down. Because that really separates the subject from its associations, that simply has to be believed; it defies an interpretation of the contents" (the artist in: Evelyn Weiss, 'Georg Baselitz in conversation with Evelyn Weiss' in Detlev Gretenkort Ed., Georg Baselitz: Collected Writings and Interviews, London 2010, p. 90). His paintings refuse to be pigeonholed, and consistently defy expectations. As we see here, the visual and emotional impact of this singular approach can be quite remarkable.
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