The Art of Michael Majerus

Michel Majerus’s visual style incorporates many influences from art history and popular culture.  His works reimagine accepted styles and genres alongside graphics borrowed from youth subcultures and the commercial mainstream. Often combining painting with large-scale installations, Majerus’s multilayered pictorial worlds include quotations from artists like de Kooning, Warhol, and Basquiat, as well as song lyrics, brand logos, video games, cartoons, and magazine covers. Majerus’ art was described by Daniel Birnbaum as “painting in the expanded field.” Mr. Majerus’ prolific compositions often reflect the newness and mixed-media spaces of the Information Age. Majerus is highly influenced by 1990s culture and incorporates this into his work.

Michel Majerus fused Pop and Minimalism in large-scale paintings that vibrate with color, as well as images and text drawn from comic books and advertising. Sampling and appropriating images and sound from a wide array of pop cultural sources, Majerus’s influences included the Super Mario brothers, Lara Croft, and General Electric. He gained notoriety in 1999 when he painted the entire façade of the Italian pavilion at the Venice Biennale with a mashup of famous artworks.

One notable example, splash bombs 3 (2002), is a giant acrylic in which the artist incorporates the logo for the well-known American water toy amid swaths of vibrant color. Majerus also combined painting with digital media and animated videos, including an accompaniment to a painting that consisted of a continuously changing video image of his signature, challenging ideas of celebrity and authenticity as ever-changing and ephemeral concepts.

Often fluorescent and large, his paintings draw on the concept of accumulation of various imagery. John Kelsey has been quoted as saying about Majerus: “He was undoubtedly more like a Super Mario moving through history like the levels of a video game, flattening content on the screen of his work, even ‘collaborating’ with deceased artists.”

Though painting was Majerus’s preferred medium of expression, he also expanded his creative offerings to include several aspects of popular culture, including computer games, digital imagery, film, television, and pop music.  He often included familiar trademarks and corporate logos as well. His work was not always limited to two-dimensional surfaces, as he often created large-scale creations which surround and engage the viewer.

The Early Years

Majerus was born in Luxembourg in 1967. In 1986, he began his studies at the Staatliche Akademie in Stuttgart, Germany, from which he graduated in 1992.  His career was brief but prolific, as he was part of the burgeoning German artistic scene after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.  Shortly before his untimely death, he spent a year in Los Angeles on a German Academic Exchange Service Fellowship.

In 1996, the Gallery Basel in Switzerland organized a mid-career retrospective and at the 1999 Venice Biennale, where he covered the entire facade of the main Italian Pavilion with a massive mural he designed. For his one-person exhibition at the Kölnischer Kunstverein in Cologne in 2000, Majerus created one of the largest works of his career, a 400-square-meter half pipe skateboard ramp. It was into this enormous structure that Majerus incorporated his provocative, ever-changing digital signature.

After moving to Los Angeles in 2000 through a German academic exchange, Majerus began work on a series of large-format paintings that were constructed with elements of digital media and eye-catching videos. Of the 30 works eventually completed in Germany, nine of the paintings would eventually become the “Pop Reloaded” exhibition presented eventually in Los Angeles. The extensive series of large paintings emphasized the visual disorder of urban landscapes and the intrusive visuals imposed by freeway billboards and office towers. Majerus’ vision for this large-scale work incorporated various well-known logos, as well as the dull greys and blacks of a cityscape to achieve its stunning effect.

International Acclaim

Majerus’1996 exhibition at a well-known art gallery in Stuttgart, Germany was the catalyst that launched his renowned career by garnering an immediate following and international acclaim.  Following that emergence into the worldwide art community, he staged additional exhibitions in Munster, Ireland and Dundee, Scotland.  Also in 1996,  a gallery in Basel, Switzerland organized a retrospective of his work to date, a significant event considering the relatively short-lived career of Michael Majerus.

Two years later, in 1998, Majerus was invited to participate in The European Biennial of Contemporary Art in Luxembourg, where he covered the entire Italian Pavilion with a massive mural he designed.  This monumental work further strengthened his status on the world stage.

Sadly Marjerus was tragically killed in a 2002 airplane crash.  At the time of his death, he was working on an exhibition entitled “Project Space” for Tate Liverpool.

Since his untimely death, several European museums have organized posthumous exhibitions of Majerus’ work.  Included among those showings are the Hamburger Gallery, Berlin (2003), the Tate Liverpool (2004), the Kunsthaus Graz (2005), and the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart (2011).

Majerus’s work is also included in many prestigious international museums, including the Tate, London, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and the Museum of Modern Art in Frankfurt, Germany.

Beginning in 2003, a retrospective exhibition of Majerus’ works was featured at the Kunstmuseum of Wolfsburg, Germany. This exhibit, titled: “Painting Pictures,” was a celebration of Majerus’ considerable body of work and was dedicated to his memory.

Several hundred of Majerus’ works have been shown in the “European Retrospective” travelling exhibition. A collaboration between the Majerus family and the Galerie Berlin, this exhibition included works previously displayed at galleries throughout Germany and from private collections throughout the world. Some countries where these works can be seen are in collections in the USA, Belgium, Britain, Spain, Greece, Mexico and Portugal.

Acquiring a Majerus Work

With the exceptional quality of this artist’s work, one may wonder how to acquire pieces for a private collection. If an individual would like to add works of this acclaimed artist to a collection, they can sometimes be found at auctions with some of the leading auction houses in Dania Beach, FL.

Selling the Works of Michael Majerus

Do you have works by Majerus that you are interested in selling, appraising, or cosigning? Call Joshua Kodner today, and ensure you receive the true value of your property.