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Albert Oehlen

Albert Oehlen

German artist
Albert Oehlen
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro German artist
A.K.A. Oehlen
Is Painter Educator
From Germany
Type Arts Academia
Gender male
Birth 17 September 1954, Krefeld
Age 66 years
Star sign Virgo
The details


Albert Oehlen (born 1954, in Krefeld, West Germany) is a contemporary German artist. Oehlen lives and works in Bühler and Segovia.

Early life and education

Born in Krefeld in 1954, Oehlen moved to Berlin in 1977, where he worked as a waiter and decorator with his friend, the artist Werner Büttner. He graduated from the Hochschule für bildende Künste Hamburg, in 1978.


Closely associated with the Cologne art scene, Oehlen was a member of the Lord Jim Lodge, along with Martin Kippenberger among others. His art is related to the Neue Wilde movement. He has more recently been described as a 'free radical'.

Influenced by other German painters such as Georg Baselitz, Sigmar Polke and Gerhard Richter, Oehlen focuses on the process of painting itself. During the 1980s he began combining abstract and figurative elements of painting in his works, as part of a reaction to the prevailing Neo-Expressionist aesthetic of the time. In the following years, he worked within self-imposed, often absurd, parameters. He used only gray tones for his “Grey” paintings and limited himself to red, yellow, and blue for another series of what he calls “bad” paintings that included his infamous 1986 portrait of Adolf Hitler. In his paintings of the late 1990s, each piece consists of smears and lines of paint Oehlen brushed and sprayed over collaged imagery that had been transferred to canvas by the type of gigantic inkjet printers used to manufacture billboards. In Oehlen's recent work, flat, figurative cut-outs-all the products of computer-aided design (CAD), and gestural strokes of oil paint trade places in the service of collage. In his recent Finger Paintings, color-blocked advertisements are an extension of the canvas, providing fragmented, readymade surfaces for Oehlen’s visceral markings, made with his hands, as well as brushes, rags, and spray-cans.


In the 1990s, Oehlen briefly ran his own independent label, Leiterwagen, putting out experimental electronica. Since the late 1990s Oehlen has played in the bands Red Krayola and Van Oehlen. References to music are frequent in his paintings and drawings. His artwork is on CDs by Gastr del Sol, Arthur Russell, and Swiss band Child Abuse.


Oehlen was Professor of Painting at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf from 2000 to 2009.

Personal life

Oehlen is the brother of fellow artist Markus Oehlen, and their father is also an artist. He lives with his wife, Esther Freund, and their three children in a village near Bühler.



In 2013 ArtDaily described Oehlen as "one of the most influential, but also one of the most controversial of contemporary painters". His paintings are also frequently compared with David Salle's. However his work has not been met with universal approval. Philippe Dagen, writing in Le Monde about Oehlen's 2011 exhibition in Nîmes, concluded that he was "of only limited importance. With about 30 canvases he reveals his system with absolute, but unfortunately appalling, clarity." His paintings were devoid of "any form of expression or psychic density". His 2007 painting, Loa, is now part of the UK's Tate Collection.

Art market

The Galerie Max Hetzler gave Oehlen his first solo show in 1981. At a 2014 Christie's auction in London, one of Oehlens self-portraits from 1984 was sold for $1.8 million, roughly three times its $670,000 high estimate.


Oehlen has shown work internationally in many exhibitions including I Will Always Champion Good Painting at Whitechapel Art Gallery in London (2006), Grounswell at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (2005), Provins – Legende at Museet for Samtidskunst in Roskilde, Denmark and Spiegelbilder 1982-1985 at Max Hetzler in Berlin (2005). In 2013 a retrospective of his entire oeuvre from the 1980s to 2005 consisting of over 80 works was held at MUMOK, Vienna. Oehlen's work was included in the 2013 Venice Biennale.

Selected solo exhibitions

  • Albert Oehlen Painting, MUMOK, Vienna 2013
  • Albert Oehlen, Carre d'Art, Nîmes 2011
  • Albert Oehlen, Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris 2011
  • Albert Oehlen, Thomas Dane Gallery, London 2011
  • Albert Oehlen, Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin 2011
  • Albert Oehlen- Fingermalerei, Emil Schumacher Museum, Hagen, Germany 2010
  • Albert Oehlen, Alfonso Artiaco, Naples 2010
  • Museo di Capodimonte, Naples (retrospective) 2009
  • Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris 2008
  • Thomas Dane Gallery, London (catalogue) 2008
  • Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin (catalogue) 2008
  • Paintings 1988-2008, John Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco 2008
  • Juana de Aizpuru, Madrid 2008
  • Drei Amigos!, Galerie Bärbel Grässlin, Frankfurt 2007
  • Prints (with Christopher Wool), 1018 ART, New York 2007
  • Albert Oehlen- I Will Always Champion Good Painting, Whitechapel Gallery, London 2006
  • Painter of Light, Luhring Augustine Gallery, New York 2006
  • Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin 2006
  • Albert Oehlen - I Will Always Champion Bad Painting, Arnolfini, Bristol 2006
  • Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens, Deurle, Belgium 2006
  • Albert Oehlen - New Paintings and Collages, Thomas Dane, London 2005
  • I know whom you showed last summer, Museum of Modern Art, Miami 2005
  • Albert Oehlen. Paintings 1980-1981, Skarstedt Fine Art, New York 2005
  • FRAC Auvergne - Ecuries de Chazerat, Clermont-Ferrand, France (catalog) 2005
  • Spiegelbilder 1982-1985, Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin 2005
  • Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris 2005
  • Albert Oehlen, Malerei 1980-2004, Selbstportrait mit 50millionenfacher Lichtgeschwindigkeit, Kunsthalle Nürnberg, Nuremberg 2005
  • Selbstportrait mit 50millionenfacher Lichtgeschwindigkeit, Musée Cantonale des Beaux Arts, Lausanne (catalog) 2004
  • Albert Oehlen, Malerei 1980-2004, Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin 2004
  • Luhring Augustine Gallery, New York 2004
  • Spezialbilder - Albert Oehlen / Jonathan Meese, Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin 2004
  • Nolan/Eckman Gallery, New York, 2003
  • Musée d'Art Moderne et Contemporain de Strasbourg (catalogue) 2002
  • Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris 2002
  • Patrick Painter, Inc., Santa Monica 2002
  • Pinturas y Dibujos 2002
  • Terminale Erfrischung: Computercollagen und Malerei, Kestner-Gesellschaft, Hannover (catalog) 2001
  • Der Ritt der sieben Nutten - das war mein Jahrhundert (with Markus Oehlen), Städtisches Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach (catalogue) 2000
  • Höre auf zu arbeiten, die Erregung nimmt Dir die Kraft, Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne 2000
  • Albert Oehlen. Malerei, Kunsthalle Vierseithof, Luckenwalde (catalog) & Bernier / Eliades, Athens 2000
  • refuse, light and a joke invented in drunkenness, Luhring Augustine, New York 1999
  • Albert Oehlen. Malerei, Kunsthalle Vierseithof, Luckenwalde (catalogue) 1997
  • IVAM Centre del Carme, Valencia (catalogue) 1996
  • Abortion of the Cool, Gesellschaft für Gegenwartskunst, Augsburg (catalogue) 1995
  • Oehlen Williams 95 (with Christopher Williams), Wexner Center for Arts, Columbus, Ohio (catalogue) 1995
  • Recent Paintings, The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago, Chicago 1995
  • Realidad Abstracta (with Markus Oehlen), Universidad Internacional Menendez Pelayo, Santander (catalogue) 1990
  • Linolschnitte, Forum Stadtpark, Graz (catalogue) 1989
  • Abräumung - Prokrustische Malerei 1982 - 84, Kunsthalle Zürich, Zürich (catalogue) 1987


  • Sammlung Falckenberg - Kulturstiftung Phoenix Art, Hamburg
  • Kunstraum Grässlin, St. Georgen
  • MUDAM-Musée d'Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean, Luxembourg
  • ZKM Museum für Neue Kunst & Medienmuseum, Karlsruhe
  • Neue Galeria Graz am Landesmuseum Joanneum, Graz
  • Inhotim Centro de Arte Contemporânea, Brumadinho, Brazil
  • Sammlung Essl-Kunsthaus, Klosterneuburg
  • Museum für Moderne Kunst (MMK), Frankfurt/Main
  • Museet for Samtidskkunst, Roskilde, Denmark
  • Daimler Contemporary, Berlin
  • Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig- MUMOK, Vienna
  • FRAC- Ile-de-France Le Plateau, Paris
  • Städtisches Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach
  • FNAC Fonds National d'Art Contemporain, Puteaux
  • The Saatchi Gallery, London
  • Musée d'Art Moderne et Contemporain (MAMCS), Strasbourg
  • Tervi Flash Art Museum of Contemporary Art, Trevi
  • CAC Centro de Arte Contemporáneo Malága, Malága
  • de la Cruz Collection - Miami, Florida

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