In Germany in the 1980s, Kippenberger was known for his outrageous and provocative behavior, both in his art and his personal life. A particularly vicious article by a German art critic served as the catalyst for this and several other "Martin in the Corner" sculptures, which consist of full-scale replicas of the artist posed like a naughty schoolboy doing his penance. Kippenberger created six versions of the sculpture. Each one is uniquely made and clothed,and the faces and hands are cast in aluminum from molds of his own body. While the other Martin figures are dressed more formally, this figure, commissioned by The Museum of Modern Art, wears Levi's jeans and a shirt with a globe on it, a nod to casual American fashion and MoMA's role as an international center of modern art.
Gallery label from Contemporary Galleries: 1980-Now, November 17, 2011-February 17, 2014.
Kippenberger cultivated his reputation as the bad boy of German art in the 1980s, acting deliberately and often outrageously provocative in both his art and his personal behavior. With this sculpture he reaps what he has sown, placing himself in a position all naughty schoolchildren know well: in the corner, alone with his enforced remorse. A particularly vicious article by a German art critic served as the catalyst for this and several other mock-apologetic Martin–in–the–corner sculptures. However, the work’s resonance goes far beyond the specific occasion, deftly setting into a contemporary vernacular the Romantic identification of the artist as outcast, whether genius, prophet, beggar, or madman. Each work in this series is uniquely made and clothed, and the faces and hands are cast in aluminum from molds of the artist's own body. While the other figures are dressed more formally, the Martin in this sculpture (commissioned by MoMA) wears Levi's jeans and a shirt with a globe on it. Kippenberger chose the shirt as a nod to MoMA's international role as a center of modern art. Its presence in the galleries is a witty upending of the museum's traditional glorification of the artist. Kippenberger zeros in on a trade secret: for contemporary museum officials, artists and the challenges their works present can be as vexatious as they are beloved.
Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2007, p. 89.