Georg Baselitz: ‘Am I supposed to be friendly?’

From his sculpture of a Hitler salute to his comments on women artists, Georg Baselitz has always been a provocative figure. After 50 years exploring the state of Germany, he tells Nicholas Wroe why he turned to America for his new show.

In 1958 Georg Baselitz, then a 20-year-old art student recently arrived in West Berlin from East Germany, attended a touring exhibition of contemporary American painting staged at his university. “Until then I had lived first under the Nazis, and then in the GDR,” he explains. “Modern art just did not occur so I knew almost nothing. Not about German expressionism, dadaism, surrealism or even cubism. And suddenly here was abstract expressionism. Paintings by Pollock, De Kooning, Guston, Still and many others, in the very buildings where I took classes every day. It was overwhelming. And not just for me. Even the professors had not seen this sort of work before.”

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