Avant-garde art: is it still possible to shock?

It is fifty years since Georg Baselitz’s first solo exhibition in 1963, during which his infamous painting “The Big Night Down the Drain”/”‘Die große Nacht im Eimer”(1962/63) was seized by the police for being sexually offensive. Depicting a man clutching his oversized bare penis, the image caused an uproar in a largely conservative Germany which still had a few years to go before experiencing the cultural revolution which gave way to the “swinging sixties“.

Having regained the painting when the court case was finalized in 1965, it is now displayed in Baselitz’s exhibition the “Berlin Years”/”Berliner Jahre” at Villa Schöningen, in Potsdam. Hanging alongside a combination of his other works from the early 60s’ , and several ‘remixes’ of the original paintings which he produced in 2008, the exhibition offers a fascinating encounter of old meets new. Juxtaposed against one another, the compositions provide a startling story of cultural development over the last half century.

Georg Baselitz
Sizeable proportions..! Georg Baselitz – “Economy 1965″ Photo: Elizabeth Johnson

No longer shocking to the visitor of 2012, Baselitz’s paintings tie into a world of hyper-sexuality, where erotic images and naked flesh are commonplace. Nonetheless, the artistry remains far above the norm, and the exhibition is a rare opportunity to see the first and most recent paintings of a world renowned, living artist.    

Set against the backdrop of delightful lake vistas, and nearby Babelsberg Castle, viewed through the airy windows of the recently renovated Villa Schoeningen, Baselitz’s exhibition makes any trip to Potsdam even more worthwhile. Homemade cakes and good coffee ensure the Villa’s cafe is great for a spot of post-art respite.

  • Villa Schöningen Georg Baselitz – “Berliner Jahre” 4th February – 1st  August 2012.  Potsdam can be reached on the S7 and requires an ABC ticket from central Berlin