It Was Acceptable In The 80s

The 80’s are synonymous with a number of things, one of which is definitely bad taste. Just think back to the get-up of the day: lurid lycra, shocking shell suits and poodle perms are all relics of this decade of kitsch. Based on these trends alone, I should have been worried about the concept of an exhibition based on the time period. Yet I must admit, I have a guilty pleasure for everything gloriously tacky, and so retained some hope for a decent exhibition. Alas, there was no lycra in sight at “Malerei der 80er Jahre” (Paintings of the 80’s) at Sprüth Magers Berlin, and the exhibition left me desperately searching for a little less chaos and a little more soul.

Sputh Magers Galley80s style- best left forgotten? Even writer Julia Zange’s dog was unimpressed. Photo: Chris Phillips


Although the lycra had gone awol the loud color palette had not. Even the gallery walls reflected the era, painted in a geometric white and lime green fashion. On display were a range of pieces by a group of artists working during the decade, including that of Andreas Schulze


Schulze’s surreal sculpture placed in the center of one room provoked a feelings of bewilderment – what was this ugly form? Even the dog accompanying an exhibition visitor looked unimpressed. The paintings by the artist were perhaps at least accessible, depicting abstract scenes not completely unfamiliar: the “Untitled” painting by the artist from 1985 depicting what looks like a group of multi-coloured sausages around a dinner table.

Where is the Glamor of the 80s?

Continuing with the brightly colored theme are the paintings of Malcolm Morley, who depicts spitfires in a childlike, comic way, and also also an abstract painting of people on a beach; a textured mesh of colours swimming together on the canvas. What was missing from these works, however, was the sparkle and life that defined the 80s.

Unfortunately, for me the exhibition does not get any more exciting than this. The assemblage works by Ashley Bickerton consisting of corporate logos and packing material do not leave me stirred, the revision of the “art object” unappealing. The work of American artist Richard Artschwager also leaves me cold, despite his vaguely interesting wooden piano sculpture. Although much great artwork is appreciated years after its creation, sometimes it is not remembered for a reason. In the case of works at Sprüth Magers Berlin, I believe that this outdated collection is best left forgotten.

  • Sprüth Magers Berlin – “Malerei der 80er Jahre” – Until January 12th 2013 – [Price range of slected works €40,000 – €230,000]

Article by Marie J Burrows