Albert Oehlen

Biography of Albert Oehlen

Operating in a space between abstraction and figuration, Albert Oehlen’s work makes the impulse and unpredictability the subject matter of his art practice. Born in Krefeld, Germany in 1954, Oehlen moved to Berlin in 1977 and took odd jobs with his good artist friend Werner Büttner. In 1978 he graduated from the Hochschule für bildende Künste Hamburg.


Albert Oehlen was always associated with the Cologne art scene and was a member of the notorious Lord Jim Lodge collective alongside Martin Kippenberger and Jörg Schlick. Like many of his German contemporaries Oehlen focused on the practice of painting itself, his guiding principles being eclecticism and the formation of new self-imposed limitations—so that he was forced to approach each painting differently.


Always keen to explore the boundaries of what was acceptable, Albert Oehlen’s famous portrait of Adolf Hitler in 1986 was highly controversial. He will often make use of existing imagery from readymade posters which he will cover and distort with paint, either sprayed, painted or roughly applied with a host of implements. Much of his more recent work blends text, image and symbol in a manner labelled “free collage” by the artist. From 2000 through to 2009 Oehlen was Professor of Painting at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf.


In 2007 the Tate, London bought Albert Oehlen’s painting Loa. He is in the Falckenberg collection, and the Saatchi Collection. In 2014 in London Christie’s auction house sold a self-portrait of his for $1.8 million. In 2013 a retrospective of his work from 1980 to 2005 was held at the Museum of Modern Art in Vienna. Oehlen’s work was also a prominent part of the 2013 Venice Biennale. 

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