Nofretete and Mona Lisa 2014

Isa Genzken (German, b. 1948) stands as arguably one of the most significant and influential female artists in the last three decades. Born and primarily raised in the small northern German city of Bad Oldesloe, Genzken embarked on her artistic journey by studying fine arts and art history at the Hamburg University of Fine Arts and later at the Berlin University of the Arts. To fund her education at these prestigious institutions, she worked as a part-time model. In 1973, she continued her studies at the Arts Academy Dusseldorf and concurrently enrolled at the University of Cologne, delving into the realms of art history and philosophy. Following her graduation in 1977, Genzken assumed a teaching role, imparting her knowledge of sculpture at the academy. During this period, she also entered into a marriage with the renowned German painter Gerhard Richter. Genzken’s career led her to various locations, including studios in Dusseldorf, Cologne, Berlin, Lower Manhattan, and Hoboken in New Jersey. It is worth noting that Genzken grappled with bipolar disorder and sought treatment for substance abuse.

Isa Genzken and Gerhard Richter 1987

The versatility of Genzken’s sculptures is evident in their diverse shapes and sizes, ranging from small pieces to expansive installations that occupy entire rooms. Among her most renowned works is the reinterpretation of the bust of Nefertiti, an ancient Egyptian symbol of ideal beauty. In her series inspired by Nefertiti, Genzken appropriates plaster models of the female bust, adorning them with fashionable sunglasses. Adding a distinctive touch to this sculpture, she incorporates a reproduction of the Renaissance masterpiece Mona Lisa, utilizing it as a backdrop for overlaying her own self-portrait. This intriguing hybrid piece serves as a playful exploration of the historical lineage of female beauty. Genzken’s oeuvre extends to other complex assemblages, featuring potted plants, furniture, and photographs.

Rose (1993), in front of Leipziger Messe, Leipzig, Germany