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Jutta Koether

Jutta Koether’s (b. 1958, Cologne) painting constantly confronts the conditions of its own production, as a site of reflection on the act of looking and the perspectives such an act might bring to bear according to who is looking, how and when. Her oeuvre is of historical significance as a counter-history to the (male-dominated) canons of modernism and post-modernism, and the understanding of painting in our contemporary world as part of a dynamic set of historical, cultural and social relations.

The painting Foolish Fire (1999) recalls the work of neo-expressionist painters who dominated the Cologne art scene in the 1980s and is characteristic of an approach that has seen the artist appropriate from different historical movements in order to bring certain stereotypes, such as the genius male painter, into question. This critical engagement with the history of painting occupies a central role in Koether's works, acting as a way to reconfigure, in the artist's words, 'the old canon as counter­canon, so to speak, by means of a play/ performance practice'. In Foolish Fire, Koether can be seen to also literally insert herself into this male historical canon through the subtle inclusion of the outline of a female face on the far left hand side of the canvas. In Latin 'foolish fire' translates as ignis fatuus, which in folklore refers to a ghost light seen at night over marshy ground that tricks travellers into believing they see a flickering lamp in the distance. Alternatively, the title could also be a play on 'friendly fire', which is the accidental attack of a military force on friendly or neutral troops.

Berlin Boogie (Bruised Grid #7) (2016) is made up of thirty-five standard-sized square paintings that can be arranged in either a rectangular or triangular configuration. Evoking the colours of skin, this is one of several small painting series through which Koether has experimented with repetition in order to capture fleeting moments in time. This body of work emerged from a difficult and introspective period in Koether’s life. In 2000, she was forced to closely re-examine art and her own practice. Every day, for 512 days, she committed herself to drawing one grid on a single sheet of paper with a red crayon. That experiment eventually led to this series, pushing the original drawings to their limits until they became a pixilation of the painting process. However, Koether’s Bruised Grids are not only the traces of injury, as these motifs have made their way into the artist’s figurative work.

In the painting Bond Freud National Gallery (2016), Koether inserts herself into a self-portrait of the naked Lucian Freud at work, which she then frames in a scene from the James Bond movie Skyfall, in which the actor Daniel Craig is sitting in the National Gallery in London looking at a painting by J. M. W. Turner. In Koether’s adaptation—not her first use of the picture-within-a-picture structure featuring a viewer—the Bond/Craig figure, whom we see from the back, is not looking at a Turner, but instead at a pathos-filled portrait of a race-car driver. The back view of the Bond figure thus becomes a “mise en abyme” of the viewer of Koether’s painting, whose gaze, in turn, is guided by the hermaphroditic painter within the allegorical pictorial space. The female life model mutates into the naked painter with muscular, masculine shoulders, who, like Freud, is holding brush and palette in her hands, enigmatically fusing both the production and reception of painting.


  1. Jutta Koether, "Foolish Fire", 1999, Collection Mudam Luxembourg
    Jutta Koether Foolish Fire, 1999

    Acrylique, peinture aérosol, stylo sur toile
    253 x 361 cm
    Collection Mudam Luxembourg
    Acquisition 2019
    © Photo : Rémi Villaggi | Mudam Luxembourg

  1. Jutta Koether, "Untitled", 2006, Collection Mudam Luxembourg, Courtesy de l’artiste et Galerie Buchholz, Berlin / Cologne / New York
    Jutta Koether Untitled, 2006

    Acrylique, encre métallique, punaises, résine époxy sur toile
    50,5 x 50,5 cm
    Collection Mudam Luxembourg
    Donation 2020
    © Jutta Koether. Courtesy de l’artiste et Galerie Buchholz, Berlin / Cologne / New York

  1. Jutta Koether Berlin Boogie (Bruised Grid #7), 2016

    Ensemble de 35 peintures
    Acrylique sur toile et bois
    30 x 30 cm chacune
    Collection Mudam Luxembourg
    Acquisition 2018
    © Photo : Rémi Villaggi / Mudam Luxembourg

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