A short history on Kippenberger editions and the art of cards…

A short history on Kippenberger editions and the art of cards…

The Art of Cards

Cards in the Arts

The Card Players by Paul Cézanne holds second place in the rankings of most expensive paintings in history, since it was famously bought for $274 million by the kingdom of Qatar in 2011. The impressionist masterpiece was painted in 1893 and features two stony-faced card players, models selected by Cézanne from his family’s estate outside Aix-en-Provence: the gardener and a farm hand.

Museum Worthy Cards

France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and Japan all house museums solely dedicated to the playing card. The collection of The Miike Playing-Card Memorial Museum in Omuta includes very old and valuable cards, some of which were illustrated by famous artists such as Hokusai, maker of the acclaimed ‘Great Wave off Kanagawa’ woodblock print, and Hiroshige, who is considered the last great master of the ukiyo-e.

Casino Quality Characteristics

A linen finish makes it difficult to mark cards by indenting the corner with a fingernail and prevents players from cheating. The graphite core helps prevent a card with a lightly printed back from having its face visible from the opposite side of the card in strong light. Finally, a varnish coating provides a smooth, slightly slippery surface to aid in shuffling and handling.

From Bone to Paper

The first recorded account of the use of a deck of playing cards was in the Orient, sometime in the 12th century. After the Chinese invention of paper, the Chinese replaced the bone or ivory playing cards (tiles) they used to play the game of Dominos, with a heavy paper kind of playing cards.



Kippenberger Editions

Aschenbecher, 1991.

Casting resin with laminated book by Martin Kippenberger, 3.5×24, 5×26cm, edition 30/50, signed. Realised by Ulrich Strohtjohann, Köln. Published by Benedikt Taschen Verlag, Köln. Presented on the occasion of the publication of “Martin Kippenberger. Ten years later”, published by Angelika Muthesius, Benedikt Taschen Verlag, Köln. Kippenberger produced his very first major monograph with TASCHEN in 1991. Following this close collaboration evolved the idea of an artist book, limited to 57 copies, each presented with an ashtray artwork cast in epoxy resin (Kippenberger rhymes with “Kippenbecher” in German, colloquial for ashtray).

Alkoholfolter, 1989.

Schlösser Alt-beer can with initials signed on adhesive plaster, 11×6,5 cm, edition 54/79. Published by Galerie Gisela Capitain, Köln. Kippenberger famously created more self-portraits than Rembrandt. In the painting Alkoholfolter (aus dem 15-teiligen werk vom einfachsten nach Hause) (The Torture of Alcohol [From the Fifteen-Part Series From the Simplest to Home]), 1981–82, he appears arrested, with plastic beerfasteners as pretend handcuffs, playing on his lack of restraint.

Broken cm, 1991/92.

Leather, metal, 9×6 cm, edition 359/100.000. Realised by Sven O.Ahrens, Claudia Boettcher, Olaf Hackl, Stefan Felder, Hans v. Sichart, Ina Weber. Published by MK mit Erfreuliche Klasse Kippenberger (Kassel)

“How would you like to have a piece of the famous ‘Broken Kilometer’ by Walter De Maria? Here it is: a handsome, shiny slice of it! Beautifully polished solid brass in a fabulous hand-stamped suede bag.”
Printed Matter, New York

The Broken Kilometer, 1979, located at 393 West Broadway in New York City, is composed of 500 highly polished, round, solid brass rods, each measuring two meters in length and five centimeters (two inches) in diameter. The 500 rods are placed in five parallel rows of 100 rods each. The sculpture weighs 18 3/4 tons and would measure 3,280 feet if all the elements were laid end-to-end. Each rod is placed such that the spaces between the rods increase by 5mm with each consecutive space, from front to back; the first two rods of each row are placed 80mm apart, the last two rods are placed 570 mm apart. Metal halide stadium lights illuminate the work which is 45 feet wide and 125 feet long. This work is the companion piece to De Maria’s 1977 Vertical Earth Kilometer at Kassel, Germany. In that permanently installed earth sculpture, a brass rod of the same diameter, total weight and total length has been inserted 1,000 meters into the ground. The Broken Kilometer has been on long-term view to the public since 1979. This work was commissioned and is maintained by Dia Art Foundation.

Haus Schloss Case, 1990.

Packing case/silkscreen on paper 48.5×45×36cm, edition 8/23, signed. Realised by Hans Böhning and Ulrich Strohtjohann, Köln. Published by Edition Julie Sylvester, New York. Produced on the occasion of the exhibition Haus Schloss Case. Edition Julie Sylvester New York 1990 and Metro Pictures, New York 1990 and of the exhibition Martin KippenbergerLuhring Augustine Hetzler, Santa Monica 1990.

Plate, 1997.

China plate with writing relief, diameter 26cm, edition 81/150. Realised by Ulrich Strohjohann, Köln. Published by Edition Schellmann, München. Produced as an edition for documenta X, 1997 Kassel.

“Rocket & mozarella spaghetti with dried tomato and wine al dente - tschau - (‘ciao!’ /‘so-long!’)”

“There are nights in Los Angeles when, if your friends are artists, you wind up at Capri--the some-what forlorn, outdated (very ‘80s) restaurant that Martin Kippenberger invested in soon after he moved to the city for a brief time in 1989. Inevitably, someone who knew Kippenberger, or someone who knew someone who knew Kippenberger, will tell you that the artist wanted to back the restaurant so that Los Angeles could have decent Spaghetti Bolognese. And so, knowing that everyone tells such stories about Kippenberger, you contemplate ordering that. But since this is a story about translation and displacement – like the artist’s obsession with the Ford Capri, an American car named after the most touristed of Italian islands; or the Technicolor gondola sculpture that he once installed in Los Angeles in skeletal form atop a BMW – you would be wise to decide against the dish…”
G. Baker, ‘Out of Position’ Artforum, February 2009


Keiner hilft keinem, 1993.

Felt pen on plastic, 17×16×16cm, edition 3/30, signed. Realised by Johann Widauer and Marcus Geiger, Innsbruck. Published by Johann Widauer, Innsbruck The Lord Jim Lodge was a union of several artists, among others by Jörg Schlick, Martin Kippenberger, Albert Oehlen, Max Gad, Walter Grond and the writer Wolfgang Bauer. The motto of the Lord Jim Lodge was ‘No one helps nobody’, its signet a drawing of a Sun, Breasts and Hammer. The Lord Jim Lodge saw itself as a ‘male society of genuine resistance to mental and behavioural templates’. Each of the members of this lodge had to use the ‘Sun Breasts Hammer’ icon and the words ‘No one helps nobody’ in his works. The stated aim was to make the Signet “better known than the logo of Coca Cola”. Martin Kippenberger did this among other things, in his self-portraits from 1988 and the ‘metro stations’ project. With the death Kippenberger in 1997, the Lord Jim Lodge abandoned their activities to make the icon known by business integration.

‘Roger E.A.’, 1990.

Wood, plastic, 3×6×36, 5cm 8 copies. Realized by Johann Widauer, Innsbruck. Published by Johann Widauer, Innsbruck. Produced on the occasion of the exhibition Roger, Edition GEMACHTES GUT, Johann Widauer, Cafe. Central, Innsbruck 1990. Original Prototype, signed.

Vom Scheitel bis zur Speiseröhre – Modell Richie, 1990.

Wooden slat, key tag, b/w photograph, ca 30cm, edition 64/80, signed. Realised by Johann Widauer, Innsbruck. Published by Texte zur Kunst, Köln. From head to oesophagus, Model Richie (1990) For Texte zur Kunst No.1 Martin Kippenberger carved the head of Richard von Weizsäcker after a photo, divided it into 100 individual pieces, and attached a keychain with a photo of the head that the pieces of wood belonged to, to each stick.

Ohne Titel, 1991.

Two-tone offset printing on punched out cardboard, 16 × 12cm, 5000 copies. Realised by Druckerei Fries, Köln. Published by Buchhandlung Walther König.

Orologio Annuale, 1990.

Manual winding timepiece, stainless steel box and leather strap, length 23 cm, signed and numbered 23/100. Produced by Alessandra Bonomo, Rome and locus Solus, Genoa. The passing and marking of time is a recurrent theme of Boetti’s work. His Orologi annuali, (Annual clocks) continually informed their wearers of the time and of the given year. He produced a version of the watch nearly every year from 1977–94 in editions from 50 to 200 that he first gave to friends, replacing the numbers on a clock dial with only the digits of that year.



Martin Kippenberger was one of the most controversial and innovative artists of the 1980’s and 90’s. To him, sculpture, painting, photography, books, posters, and even invitation cards were all equally valid forms of his artistic practice. He constantly played off one media against another in an output as prolific as it was varied. Kippenberger’s work is characterised by derisive pictorial inventions and image-text combinations touching the taboos of art.


British artist Jonathan Monk replays, recasts and re-examines seminal works of Conceptual and Minimal art by variously witty, ingenious and irreverent means. Speaking in 2009, he said, “Appropriation is something I have used or worked with in my art since starting art school in 1987. At this time (and still now) I realised that being original was almost impossible, so I tried using what was already available as source material for my own work.” Through wall paintings, monochromes, ephemeral sculpture and photography he reflects on the tendency of contemporary art to devour references, simultaneously paying homage to figures such as Sol LeWitt, Ed Ruscha, Bruce Nauman and Lawrence Weiner, while demystifying the creative process.

Kippenberger & Monk

This is not the first time Kippenberger plays a lead role in Jonathan Monk’s work. Monk named his 2011 solo exhibition Dear Painter, paint for me one last time, after Kippenberger’s first museum show in 1981 Lieber Maler, male mir (Dear painter, paint for me). For this Berlin show, Kippenberger hired a billboard painter called Werner to execute the paintings. Martin Kippenberger proclaimed that this was Werner’s first indoor exhibition. Thirty years later, Jonathan Monk commissioned reproductions of ten paintings by a Chinese painter for his Geneva show.