Kai Althoff Untitled 2001

  • Not on view

In both subject and form, Althoff's figurative drawings allude to an ambiguous past. Although Althoff's work is clearly influenced by German history, the costume, locations, and facial features in his drawings only vaguely imply a period before the twentieth century. Despite references to German folk and fairy tales, the Catholic Rhineland, Romanticism, Expressionism, and Biedermeier design, the work remains enigmatic.

This drawing is part of a group of figurative works depicting brooding males engaged in potentially dangerous or malevolent activities. Here Althoff depicts two young men dressed in unidentifiable historical costume, their faces marked with delicate curving scars. One grips the other tightly across the shoulder as they rush through a red, black, and blue haze pierced by a street lamp. Back arched, mouth wide open, a third figure laughs hysterically in the distance. Like other works by Althoff, this work is eerily beautiful, demonstrating the artist’s command of line, color, and form. Although the meaning of the scene remains a mystery, it is clear that some damage has taken place and more is likely to follow—a macabre sense of an unsettled past haunts the image.

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art , p. 198.
Lacquer, watercolor, and varnish on two sheets of paper on canvas
27 5/8 x 23 3/4" (70.1 x 60.3 cm)
Fractional and promised gift of Martin and Rebecca Eisenberg
Object number
© 2024 Kai Althoff
Drawings and Prints

Installation views

We have identified these works in the following photos from our exhibition history.

How we identified these works

In 2018–19, MoMA collaborated with Google Arts & Culture Lab on a project using machine learning to identify artworks in installation photos. That project has concluded, and works are now being identified by MoMA staff.

If you notice an error, please contact us at [email protected].


If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

MoMA licenses archival audio and select out of copyright film clips from our film collection. At this time, MoMA produced video cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. All requests to license archival audio or out of copyright film clips should be addressed to Scala Archives at [email protected]. Motion picture film stills cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For access to motion picture film stills for research purposes, please contact the Film Study Center at [email protected]. For more information about film loans and our Circulating Film and Video Library, please visit https://www.moma.org/research/circulating-film.

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication, please email [email protected]. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to [email protected].


This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to [email protected].