Kai Althoff, German (1966 - )

Through painting, Kai Althoff engages with the spiritualism of masculine identity as a metaphor for reconciliation with German history. Often articulated with a homoerotic subtext, Althoff portrays the male domain as psychologically complex, where power politics of violence, sensuality, vulnerability and enticement are played out against backdrops of war, religion and pub-land. Borrowing stylistically from art history, Kai Althoff’s work possesses a timeless quality, where narratives are suggested with confessional intimacy. Rendered with exquisite sensitivity, Althoff uses beauty to seduce the viewer, encouraging moral complicity.

Something sinister lies at the heart of Kai Althoff’s paintings: unease with the way history repeats itself. Languages borrowed from traditional art are used to paint out suggestive narratives of the artist’s own invention. Ranging from avant-garde collage to fairytale illustration, Kai Althoff’s appropriated styles carry the weight of historical authority. Blurring the boundaries between past and present, Althoff’s paintings explore sensuality, violence and morality as timeless themes.

Central to Kai Althoff’s paintings is a longing for reconciliation, with German history, masculine identity and the politics of pack mentality. His all-male cast of characters gives credence to the corruptibility and heroism of youth. Soldiers, dandies, saints and sinners all take starring roles, playing out the group dynamics of power, violence, vulnerability, enticement and sentimentality.

The wholesome ethic of German Catholicism and 30s fascist-style design repeatedly serve to underscore Kai Althoff’s taboo subtexts of homosexuality and a nation’s fractured history. Althoff only hints at his work’s contemporary origin through the use of modern materials such as resin, tape and tinfoil.

Using a variety of media, Kai Althoff draws sympathetic psychology from the physicality of his surfaces. Oil paint is applied with provocative sensuality, giving a tender eroticism to images of brutality. A collage depicting religious repentance is rendered on translucent paper: a frail veneer of purity. Althoff presents beauty as an epitomised guise of perversion; his paintings are elaborate seductions of amoral acquiescence.

From long-forgotten wars to orgy-esque club-land, Kai Althoff’s paintings explore the essence of masculine experience. Unspoken histories of love, guilt and redemption are rendered with incredible poignancy. Through painting, Althoff designs his own contemporary mythology: by delving into the past, Kai Althoff seeks ablution for the future. His paintings offer a quiet hope for the human condition.


Born in Cologne, Germany

Currently lives and works in Cologne



Kai Althoff: Kai Kein Respekt (Kai No Respect) Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; ICA, Boston


Vom Monte Scherbelino Sehen Diözesanmuseum, Freising


Kai Althoff (with Armin Krämer) Kunstverein Braunschweig, Germany


Impulse Anton Kern Gallery, New York; Galerie Neu, Berlin
Aus Dir
Galerie Daniel Buchholz, Cologne


Stigmata aus Grossmanssucht Galerie Ascan Crone, Hamburg
Hau ab, Du Scheusal
Galerie Neu, Berlin


Galerie Hoffmann & Senn, Vienna
Galerie Christian Nagel, Cologne


Reflux Lux Galerie Neu, Berlin
Bezirk der Widerrede
Galerie Daniel Buchholz, Cologne

1997 Hilfen und Recht der äußeren Wand (an mich) Anton Kern Gallery, New York
In Search of Eulenkippstadt Robert Prime Gallery, London
Heetz, Nowak, Rehberger Museum of Contemporary Art, São Paulo
1996 Hakelhug Galerie Christian Nagel, Cologne
1995 Hast Du Heute Zeit - Ich Aber Nicht Künstlerhaus, Stuttgart
Modern wird lahmgelegt Galerie Daniel Buchholz, Cologne



Huts Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin
Dreams and Conflicts: The Dictatorship of the Viewer Venice Biennale


Chère Paintre, Liebe Maler, Dear Painter Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt
A Perilous Space Magnani, London
actionbutton Hamburger Bahnhof, Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin


Chère Paintre, Liebe Maler, Dear Painter Centre Pompidou, Paris; Kunsthalle
Wien, Vienna
Drawing Now: 8 Propositions Museum of Modern Art, New York


Drawings Regen Projects, Los Angeles
Neue Welt Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt
Musterkarte - Modelos de Pintura en Alemania 2001 Galeria Heinrich Erhardt, Madrid
I Love NY Anton Kern Gallery, New York


Premio Michetti Museo Michetti, Francavilla al Mare, Switzerland
00 Barbara Gladstone Gallery, New York
Galerie Daniel Buchholz, Cologne


German Open Kunst Museum, Wolfsburg, Germany
How will we behave? Robert Prime Gallery, London
Oldnewtown Casey Kaplan Gallery, New York
Who, if not we? Elizabeth Cherry Contemporary Art, Tucson, Arizona
On paper Stalke Galleri, Copenhagen
Ars Viva 98/99 - Installationen Portikus, Frankfurt



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