It’s often said that laughter and death go together. Or at least should to make it all bearable. In Werner Büttner’s paintings the two meet and offer viewers some consolation ––a laugh, befuddlement, awe. To pull off paintings with that kind of balance, an artist has to be in control of his craft. Büttner, fortunately, is an avid student of painting, having come up in active dialogue with the historical and present state of the medium.


1973: Studied Law at Berlin Freie Universitat, Berlin, Germany

1989: Professor at HfbK, Hamburg, Germany


Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg, Germany, 2020

MAMCO, Geneva, Switzerland, 2017

Städel Museum, Frankfurt, Germany, 2015

MUMOK — Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna, Austria, 2008

Kunstverein Munich, Munich, Germany, 1992


Werner Büttner: Last Lecture Show, The Ranch, Montauk, New York, May 13-June 23, 2022

Werner Büttner: Last Lecture Show, Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg15 October 2021 - 16 January 2022

Werner Büttner: Last Lecture Show, Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg, 15 October 2021 - 16 January 2022

Weserburg Museum, Bremen, Germany, 2013

ZKM – Zentrum für Kunst and Medien, Karlsruhe, Germany, 2013

Kunsthalle Dominikanerkirche, Osnabrück, Germany, 2010

FRAC Poitou Charentes, Angoulême, France, 2004

Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, UK, 1988


Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna, Fonds national d’Art contemporain, Paris FRAC Poitou-Charentes, Angoulême, Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg Ludwig Collection, Aachen Kunstmuseum Walter im Glaspalast, Augsburg Museum für Kommunikation, Frankfurt Sammlung Falckenberg, Hamburg Sammlung Staedel Museum, Frankfurt Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe, Karlsruhe Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie, Karlsruhe UK Ulster Museum, Belfast US Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, OH Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, MA




The Disturbing Paintings of Werner Büttner, Forgotten Bad Boy of German Art, Are Starting to Look Alarmingly Good. The Market Has Noticed

Port Magazine


Provocative art tends to take a post-modern form, whether that be film, installation or performance art. In transgressing the boundaries of traditional media, it signals its subversive tendencies. But for Werner Büttner, once a member of Germany’s Junge Wilde or ‘wild youth’, figurative painting holds far greater expressive potential in all its narrative lucidity and metaphorical inference. Büttner relishes each brushstroke, applying the paint in layers until he has built a thick crust. Every inch feels powerful and deliberate, yet Büttner insists he has no emotional relationship to paint, “I try to enslave it [only] to end up in splendid arbitrariness.” The images themselves are astutely observational with a dark, comic edge. “Humour is the only appropriate reaction I have found facing what’s now 64 years of the ‘condition humaine’.”

Art in America


In his 2015 collage The Humorlessness of Historians Spawns Further Monsters . . . , German artist Werner Büttner frames a bust of Janus, the Roman god of beginnings and endings, within an inky black void; the god’s two faces look forward and backward in time as what looks like an explosion of stars showers upon him. Büttner’s exhibition of seventeen paintings and fifty-five collages (all but one work 2015 or 2016) was overflowing with allusions, symbols, and enigmatic juxtapositions—like Magritte, Büttner is a capable painter whose work poses challenges less painterly than syntactic—and while viewing this modestly scaled composition I apprehended a unifying framework for the many words and pictures in dialogue around me.