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  • A class of his own: The visual legacy of Michel Majerus


A class of his own: The visual legacy of Michel Majerus

Before his death in a plane crash in 2002, Michel Majerus was one of the most thrilling contemporary painters.

Installation view: kosuth majerus sonderborg – an installation by Joseph Kosuth, Michel Majerus Estate, 2022. © Joseph Kosuth / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022; © Michel Majerus, 2022. Courtesy neugerriemscheider, Berlin and Matthew Marks Gallery; © K.R.H. Sonderborg, Galerie Maulberger, München 2022. Courtesy Kunstmuseum Stuttgart and Samlung Grässlin, St. Georgen. Photo: Marjorie Brunet Plaza

Before his tragic death in a plane crash in 2002 at the age of just 35, Luxembourgish painter Michel Majerus built up a body of work that showed an extraordinary ability to absorb and reproduce the visual culture of his time. Advertising slogans, logos, graphics from the computer games he played obsessively, Pixar characters and graffiti all spilled out across his large, airy canvases. To many, he encapsulated a thrilling sense of newness, mixing high and low art to expand the contemporary language of painting.

One person who recognised that special talent was the curator Peter Pakesch. Having first seen the young painter’s work at Berlin’s neugerriemschneider gallery in the early 1990s, Pakesch later organised and curated Majerus’s first institutional show at the Kunsthalle Basel in 1996. Twenty-five years on, Pakesch is now the curator of the upcoming exhibition kosuth majerus sonderborg – an installation by Joseph Kosuth, which opens later this month at the Michel Majerus Estate.

Focusing on the development of Majerus’s visual language, the upcoming show will present the young painter’s work alongside paintings from his two most influential teachers: Joseph Kosuth and K.R.H. Sonderborg. “What’s really interesting,” says Pakesch, “is to see how the dialectic between both of them impacted his work, and the synergy Majerus got out of it.”

Kosuth is regarded as one of the pioneers of conceptual art, whereas Majerus’s earlier teacher Sonderborg was an abstract painter full of gesture and spontaneity. Their vastly different approaches fed into the work of Majerus, whose magpie-like creative process managed to take elements from both their practices.

The exhibition – located in the artist’s former Prenzlauer Berg studio – takes things full circle as Kosuth, now 76 years old, will be incorporating texts from Majerus’s writings into his own new work. “It’s a wonderful thing,” says Pakesch, “as it will show how the artists interacted over many years.”

kosuth majerus sonderborg – an installation by Joseph Kosuth Michel Majerus Estate, Prenzlauer Berg / From Apr 28-Mar 2023