Anna Polke-Stiftung+49 (0) 221
Sigmar Polke, 1997, Bonn, photo: Manfred Leve, © Marc Leve, Estate of Manfred Leve

Sigmar Polke

Sigmar Polke was born on 13 February 1941 in Oleśnica (Silesia). During the Second World War his family fled to Thuringia, and they settled in Düsseldorf in 1953. In that city, Sigmar Polke did an apprenticeship at a stained-glass maker, and subsequently, from 1961 to 1967, studied at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf with Karl Otto Götz and Gerhard Hoehme. While he was still studying, he and his fellow students Manfred Kuttner, Konrad Lueg and Gerhard Richter organised a first public exhibition under the label Capitalist Realism. His first group and solo exhibitions at galleries followed in Düsseldorf, Cologne, Berlin, Hannover and other places, and later he was granted a professorship at the Hochschule für bildende Künste (HfbK) in Hamburg (1970/71). In the 1970s, Polke entered into lively exchange with artists and other creative people at his home, a former farm named Gaspelshof in Willich, and in Switzerland, travelled abroad (Afghanistan/Pakistan, New York), and had international exhibitions (Bienal de São Paulo). A first retrospective of his work was shown in 1976 in Tübingen, Düsseldorf and Eindhoven. In 1978 Sigmar Polke moved to Cologne, where he lived and worked until his death on 10 June 2010.

Sigmar Polke’s extensive oeuvre encompasses painting, works on paper, photography, film, objects, and graphic works. His unconventional and experimental use of different media and materials and his rich visual worlds made him one of the most influential post-war German artists, and his work still inspires young artists today.


  • 1963
    • Demonstrative Ausstellung, Kaiserstraße 31A, Düsseldorf, with Manfred Kuttner, Konrad Lueg and Gerhard Richter
  • 1966
    • polke/richter. richter/polke, Galerie h, Hanover
  • 1966
    • Hommage an Schmela, Galerie Schmela, Düsseldorf
  • 1972
    • Documenta 5. Befragung der Realität. Bildwelten heute, Museum Friedericianum, Neue Galerie, Kassel
  • 1973
    • Original + Fälschung, Westfälischer Kunstverein, Münster, with Achim Duchow (subsequently at Städtisches Kunstmuseum Bonn)
  • 1974
    • Hallo Shiva… Neue Bilder, Galerie Klein, Bonn
  • 1975
    • XIII Bienal de São Paulo, São Paulo
  • 1976
    • Sigmar Polke. Bilder, Tücher, Objekte, selection of works, 1962–1971, Kunsthalle Tübingen (subsequently at Kunsthalle Düsseldorf and Van Abbemuseum Eindhoven)
  • 1982
    • Documenta 7, Kassel
  • 1983
    • Sigmar Polke, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam (subsequently at Städtisches Kunstmuseum Bonn)
  • 1984
    • Sigmar Polke, Kunsthaus Zürich (subsequently at Josef-Haubrich-Kunsthalle, Köln)
  • 1986
    • Athanor. Il padiglione. XLII Biennale di Venezia, Venice
  • 1988
    • Sigmar Polke. Zeichnungen, Aquarelle, Skizzenbücher, 1962–1988, Städtisches Kunstmuseum Bonn
  • 1988
    • Sigmar Polke, ARC, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris
  • 1990
    • Sigmar Polke. Fotografien, Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden
  • 1990–92
    • Sigmar Polke, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (subsequently at Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Brooklyn Museum, New York)
  • 1992
    • Sigmar Polke, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
  • 1994–95
    • Sigmar Polke, Carré d‘Art, Musée d‘Art Contemporain, Nîmes (subsequently IVAM Centre del Carme, Valencia)
  • 1997–98
    • Sigmar Polke. Die drei Lügen der Malerei, Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (subsequently Nationalgalerie at Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin)
  • 1999
    • Sigmar Polke. Works on Paper 1963–1974, The Museum of Modern Art, New York (subsequently Hamburger Kunsthalle)
  • 2005
    • Sigmar Polke. Werke & Tage, Kunsthaus Zürich
  • 2009–10
    • Sigmar Polke. Wir Kleinbürger! Zeitgenossen und Zeitgenossinnen. Die 1970er Jahre, Hamburger Kunsthalle
  • 2013–14
    • Sigmar Polke, Musée de Grenoble
  • 2014–15
    • Alibis: Sigmar Polke, 1963–2010, The Museum of Modern Art, New York (subsequently Tate Modern, London, and Museum Ludwig, Cologne)
  • 2016
    • Sigmar Polke, Palazzo Grassi, Venice
  • 2018-19
    • Sigmar Polke and the 1970s – Networks, Experiments, Identities, Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Siegen
  • 2021-22
    • Productive Image Interference: Sigmar Polke and Artistic Perspectives Today, Kunsthalle Düsseldorf

AWARDS (Selection)

  • 1966
    • Deutscher Kunstpreis der Jugend (Young German Art Award), Baden-Baden
  • 1975
    • Prize for painting of the city of São Paulo, XIII Bienal de São Paulo
  • 1986
    • Leone d'oro. Grand prize for painting, XLII Biennale di Venezia, Venice
  • 1994
    • Erasmus Prize of the Praemium Erasmianum Foundation, Amsterdam
  • 2000
    • Kaiserring, art prize of the city of Goslar
  • 2002
    • Praemium Imperiale, Japan Art Association, Tokyo
  • 2007
    • Rubens Prize of the city of Siegen
  • 2010
    • Roswitha Haftmann Prize, Zurich
  • 2017
    • Prix Visarte D‘Honneur, Zurich