Tribute by Frédéric Mitterrand, Minister of Culture and Communication, to Sigmar Polke

A great painter has just left us, one of the major figures of 20th century art in a Europe torn by two world wars and whose peoples were then separated for decades by a terrible iron curtain.

At the age of 12, Polke had fled the GDR with his family. Ten years later, he emerged on the world art scene as one of the founders of “capitalist realism”, a vigorous, bold, brilliant and not without humour response to the “socialist realism” of such a sad memory.

His career had also led him to propose a specifically German form of Pop art, very identifiable compared to that of which Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg were the masters in the United States. Sigmar Polke showed great freedom in everything, in his themes, in his techniques, in his image processing. He was very aware of the artist’s social role: aesthetic shock must have been at the origin of a question that is posed to the whole society as to each of us.