Exuberant ’80s art at the Groninger Museum

New Wild Painters: German Neo-Expressionism in the 1980s

In the early 1980s, Germany was swept by an artistic style that was raw, aggressive, provocative, and often funny or out-and-out absurd. From 30 April, the Groninger Museum showcases this intense work in New Wild Painters. Sure to spark conversation, the exhibition focuses on the Neue Wilde groups of artists that were active in Cologne, Berlin, Düsseldorf and Hamburg, with members such as Walter Dahn, Helmut Middendorf, Milan Kunc, Salomé and Elvira Bach.


Neo-expressionism rocked the art world as rudely and violently as punk had pop music a few years before. In the 1960s and 1970s, art had been dominated by abstract and conceptual tendencies. Almost no one expected figurative, expressionist painting to come back with such force. But it did, in several countries at once, and nowhere on such a wide scale as in West Germany. Young artists formed groups and made raw, provocative, humorous paintings, often in response to each other. Many felt liberated by the rediscovery of the possibilities of figurative painting, and it shows in their often enormous canvases.

Although the artists in the
exhibition share neo-expressionist Neue Wilde tendencies, their work varies considerably. For all their “wildness”, some of these painters display remarkable virtuosity. In their own ways, they show respect for the painterly tradi­tion, and they take inspiration from movements such as German expressionism. At the other extreme are artists who deliberately make their paintings as ugly as possible and seem to be poking fun at everything. With undisguised irony, they perpetrate what came to be called ”bad” painting.

From 30 April at the Groninger Museum
New Wild Painters, featuring work by Hans Peter Adamski, Peter Angermann, Elvira Bach, Ina Barfuss, Peter Bömmels, Werner Büttner, Luciano Castelli, Walter Dahn, Jiří Georg Dokoupil, Rainer Fetting, G.L. Gabriel, Georg Herold, Gerard Kever, Martin Kippenberger, Jan Knap, Milan Kunc, Helmut Middendorf, Christa Näher, Gerhard Naschberger, Albert Oehlen, Markus Oehlen, Salomé, Andreas Schulze, Bettina Semmer, Volker Tannert, Thomas Wachweger and Bernd Zimmer, is on view from 30 April through 23 October 2016.

New Wild Painters at Minerva
In partnership with the Groninger Museum, Academie Minerva presents the exhibition New Wild Painters in Minerva. It was in the art school’s building on Praedinussingel – which housed the Groninger Museum in the 1980s – that many of the Neue Wilde painters saw their work exhibited in a museum for the first time. Ten large works from the Groninger Museum’s Neue Wilde collection will be on display in the Koepelzaal at Academie Minerva. The show is free to enter and open on weekdays from 10am to 6pm from 2 May through 17 June 2016.

The Wild Painters at Museum De Fundatie
In parallel with New Wild Painters, the counterpart exhibition The Wild: The Expressionism of Brücke and Der Blaue Reiter will be on view at Museum De Fundatie in Zwolle from 28 April through 18 September 2016. Made up of around 100 works, the show will constitute the Netherlands’ first large museum survey show of early-20th-century German expressionist art.

New Wild Painters is on view at the Groninger Museum from 30 April through 23 October 2016.

New Wild Painters is an exhibition of the Städel Museum in Frankfurt.

  • Jiří Georg Dokoupil, Ohne Titel, 1984 © Jiří Georg Dokoupil
  • Helmut Middendorf, Electric Night, 1979 © Helmut Middendorf
  • Martin Kippenberger, Two Proletarian Women Inventors on Their Way to the Inventor’s Congress, 1984 © Martin Kippenberger