The 1980s saw an international revival of painting in expressive, gestural styles. These works of art were often colourful and figurative, as well as experimental and energetic. In contrast with the then dominant trend of conceptual and minimal art, these artists worked in diverse media and found inspiration in urban sub-cultures like the Punk and gay scenes.
This new artistic movement was soon called ‘Neo-Expressionism’. It was particularly prominent in Germany, where the Expressionism art movement had originated in the early 20th century. The Ashmolean has several collections of such modern and contemporary German art. This vibrant, free exhibition draws on highlights from these and recent acquisitions made over the last three years, which are exhibited here for the first time.
Paintings, sculptures and works on paper are included from three internationally-acclaimed artists in the Neo Expressionist movement, known as ‘Junge Wilde’ (‘young Fauves’) in the 1980s: A.R. Penck (1939–2017), Georg Baselitz (b.1938) and Markus Lüpertz (b.1941).
Drawings and prints by a younger generation of ‘Junge Wilde’ artists, conveying the exuberant energy of this 80s West Berlin art scene, include expressive personal pieces from Elvira Bach, Ina Barfuss, Salomé and Lucien Castelli.
Exhibition curator Dr Lena Fritsch says: ‘German Neo-Expressionism represents a new hunger for subjective, gestural painting and drawing in the 1980s. West Berlin was awash with great artists, musicians, activists and squatters – the decade was a unique time when anything seemed possible. It is hugely exciting to show our visitors new acquisitions by major artists, ranging from A.R. Penck and Georg Baselitz to Elvira Bach and Rainer Fetting, alongside gems of German Neo-Expressionism that have been hiding in the Ashmolean’s storage spaces for years.’