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Sigmar Polke (German, 1941-2010)


Birth Place: Lower Silesia (Silesia, Europe)


Sigmar Polke was a German painter and photographer whose use of chemical reactions in his mixed media paintings became extremely popular in the Capitalist realism movement. Born during World War II, Polke’s family escaped the communist regime in 1953, making it to West Germany where Polke would spend hours and hours in galleries and museums. During this time he worked as an apprentice at a stained glass factory in Dusseldorf.

These two experiences would define the aesthetics for the rest of Polke’s career. The 1960s saw German visual art in dialogue with the rest of the world and no one would capitalize more on this than Polke, whose signature style mixed capitalistic imagery with a psychedelic bent. He continued to teach and produce art throughout the 1970s and 1980s, culminating in his coronation as one of the founders of the Capitalist Realism art movement (along with Gerhard Richter and Konrad Fischer). Always imaginative and inventive, a Polke piece is both enticing and unnerving, making his work evocative and desirable with collectors around the world. 

What type of art Sigmar Polke make?

Sigmar Polke is a printmaker, painter, photographer, and sculptor who is most famous for being one of the founders of the Capitalist Realism Movement. His use of non-traditional materials in his art like arsenic, meteor dust, uranium rays, and even mucous from snails belied an interest in alchemy. Polke believed his paintings were magic, looking at them it’s hard not to disagree. 

How often does Sigmar Polke art come up for auction?

Sigmar Polke’s art is extremely popular with collectors and as such comes up for auction frequently. The breadth of his catalog makes for a wide and varied audience for his paintings and photographs -- from private collectors to famous institutions. In 2019, there were six upcoming auctions featuring Polke -- from a little-known signed and dated mixed media collage to his famous work Alpenveilchen/Flowers (1967). 

How much is a Sigmar Polke painting worth?

Sigmar Polke’s work frequently sells for millions of dollars. He has many iconic works, from Dschungel (Jungle) (1967) to his famous photograph Frau Mit Butterbrot (Estimate on request) (1964). Even lesser-known paintings and mixed media pieces sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Polke’s work is highly sought after by collectors all over the world. 

Which Sigmar Polke painting is the most valuable? 

The highest price ever paid for a Sigmar Polke painting is $27,130,000 for the work DSCHUNGEL (JUNGLE) (1967) at auction in 2015. Influenced by the psychedelic movement of the time, DSCHUNGEL (JUNGLE) is both entirely arresting and quietly beautiful, depicting a jungle and ocean landscape portrait at dusk. All of the hallmark Polke aesthetics are represented, making this piece not only valuable but definitive to the artist’s catalog. 

What are the most famous works by Sigmar Polke? 

Polke worked for so long and was extremely prolific, so it’s hard to narrow it down to his most famous works. That being said, DSCHUNGEL (JUNGLE) (1967), Frau mit Butterbrot (Estimate on request) (1964), and STADTBILD II (CITY PAINTING II) (1968) all are representative of Polke’s ever-evolving style. While his work is now lumped in with many pop artists, many of these paintings didn’t receive recognition until decades after their creation. 

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