The Beautiful Sigmar: Films on Polke at Tate Modern, London, in January 2015

In conjunction with the exhibition Alibis: Sigmar Polke, this evening brings together rarely seen films about Sigmar Polke, one of the most insatiably experimental artists of the 20th century. Alibis: Sigmar Polke, meanwhile is the first retrospective to bring together the unusually broad range of media Polke worked with during his five-decade career – not only painting, drawing, photography, film and sculpture, but also notebooks, slide projections and photocopies. Works on show will even include meteor dust, gold, bubble wrap, snail juice, potatoes, soot and, surprisingly, uranium.

During the screening, key films by the artist’s contemporaries reveal the artistic community of Düsseldorf in the 1960s and 1970s where Polke worked alongside names such as Manfred Kuttner, Blinky Palermo, Gerhard Richter, Konrad Lueg (later known as Konrad Fischer) and Lutz Mommartz. Later works from a younger generation, including Britta Zoellner’s film made with Astrid Heibach and 2014 Turner Prize nominee Duncan Campbell, go on to show the continuing influence of Polke’s work.

Manfred Kuttner’s 1963 film A-Z, traverses the city from his apartment to his studio featuring both Polke and Richter; Kuttner was part of the close artistic community in Düsseldorf in the 1960s and organised with Polke, Gerhard Richter and Konrad Lueg the first show of ‘German Pop Art’ in a former butchers shop in 1962.

Lutz Mommartz featured Polke as a performer in various films and installations including Der schöne Sigmar (The Beautiful Sigmar) (1971) that documents the vibrant art scene of the time and follows a New Year’s Eve at artist Christ of Kohlhöfer’s house. Britta Zoellner’s The Rainbow Serpent (1980-81/2013), has been edited with Astrid Heibach and made from footage recorded while travelling with Polke in across Asia and Oceania in 1980-81; finally, Duncan Campbell’s film Sigmarmade in 2008 is a playful homage to the artist.

The Beautiful Sigmar: Films on Polke, 14 January, 18.30-21.00, Starr Auditorium, Tate Modern, Bankside, London SE1 9TG.

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1. Britta Zollner, The Rainbow Serpent: Entering a New Inner Space, a New Inner Time (1980–81/2013), still from digital transfer of 8mm film. Copyright Britta Zoellner.