Martin Kippenberger

Apropos of the MoMA show on Martin Kippenberger (crazy German artist from the 1980s and '90s) and the write up by Holland Cotter in today's New York Times, indulge me in a little personal anecdote. After college I spent a summer working as a cook's assistant in a Cologne hotel called the Chelsea. The owner, Werner Peters, was a big art collector, and every room had a signature work, many of them by his buddy Kippenberger (including a version of his famous "Communistin"). Toward the end of my stint I was chatting with Peters and he asked where I was going next.

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The Invisible Masterpiece By Hans Belting Translated by Helen Atkins (University of Chicago Press, 480 pp., $45) Never was there more optimistic nonsense written about abstract art than in Germany after World War II. Abstraction, many artists and critics hoped, would guide the German public back to universal spiritual ideals and reconcile them with European civilization. The Germans were discovering abstract art anew after long years of National Socialist philistinism.

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