Otto. The Exhibition – in Hamburg. Since 14 September 2018, the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg (MKG) is presenting Otto Waalkes’s pictorial oeuvre in the city where he first learned to paint. The legendary comedian, musician, draftsman, actor, and film director known simply as “Otto” turned 70 on 22 July. Otto is a classic pioneer of German comedy who has earned cult status. Less well-known, however, is Otto the painter. In fact, though, he began studying art education in 1970 at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste Hamburg (HFBK) with Hyperrealists and Surrealists such as Hans Tiemann and Konrad Hausner. This is where he learned his craft from the ground up: layered painting like the old masters, painting with oils and acrylic as well as watercolors, and above all drawing, with works that would later betray his close ties to the artists of the Frankfurt School. Otto’s repertoire of drawn motifs is large: most famous of all is his Ottifant, which he created while still a schoolboy. But his success as a comedian has left him little time for painting. For some years now, Otto has thus been turning his attention back to the visual arts, producing an astonishing number of paintings – homages to artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Edward Hopper, Roy Lichtenstein, David Hockney, Pablo Picasso, Edvard Munch, and Max Liebermann, who inspire him to undertake pastiches and parodies. On his dizzying journey through art history, he treats his role models with respect and makes virtuoso use of a great variety of painting techniques – depending on which famous master he is currently emulating. But the paintings wouldn’t be Otto’s if humor didn't also come into its own here. Otto the comedian sneaks into every picture, leaving traces of wit and folly, and sometimes also of ulterior motives and melancholy.
Otto’s large-scale solo show in Hamburg features over 200 exhibits, including original paintings, many of his early drawings and picture stories, cartoons, cheat sheets for his stage performances, excerpts from the legendary Otto shows from 1974 to 1982, and stage props such as a replica of the Pilsum lighthouse and a huge stuffed Ottifant.