by Rosanna Albertini

In memory of Martin Kippenberger



PREMISE: in 2008 one sculpture from the series “Fred the Frog” by Martin Kippenberger  was hung on a wall at the Museum of Modern Art in Bozen (Bolzano, Italy). Church and State, physically represented by clerk and politicians, did everything  in their power to force the museum to remove the artwork. It seems the pope himself, at the time Benedict XVI, supported the request. The president of the Council for South Tirole started a public hunger strike. Refusing to accept any intimidation, The Museum’s curators and director kept the frog where it was to the very end of the exhibition. Journalistic reports sound like wild products of imagination, but the real story was found in a supplementary booklet meant to complete Italo Calvino’s  Folktales.


Despite his good nature -he liked to laugh and make jokes- one day raining gray drops of water dripping from the hat into his neck and shoulders for the sky cried the same pain of his heart, Martin Kippenberger sculpted a human body with the head of a frog, and nailed it on a cross. It was not Jesus. Hands and feet had only four fingers. The sculpture was a funny portrait of Martin’s moment of sadness. The frog had an egg in one of the hands and a stein of beer in the other.

Saint Peter, who likes to keep himself in touch with the aging of time, and loves to walk up the mountains, discovered Martin’s crucified frog in a museum close to the Dolomites, in Bolzano. His attack of rage was so strong that he almost became as green as the frog. Not because of Martin, Jesus was his problem. Where was he? And why was the human frog holding an egg? Being human, in no way Peter could explain miracles or religious mysteries. “Is the egg going to hatch — he wondered — and release the spirit in the form of a dove? The son is missing, where is the father?”

On the top of such questions, Peter’s permanent empty stomach. For centuries Italian people told their children stories about this fisherman always desperate for lack of food. Although Jesus made miracles to give him something to eat, he often challenged either his intelligence or his moral temper. In Sicily, while walking through the island with the 12 apostles all exhausted, asking for bread, “Pick up a stone”, Jesus suggested. Each stone became a big loaf of bread in the hands of the 11 fellows, but Peter found only a little roll in his hand. His eyes told Jesus it was not enough, and Jesus answered, “Why did you chose such a small stone?” This time Peter carried a big one, but the village they reached in a few hours had a bakery and the miracle was not necessary. Peter threw the stone away and once more did not eat.

Even worse in Friuli: Jesus found a hare in a field, and told Peter to open his bag and put it in. Arriving at a restaurant, Jesus encouraged him to go to the kitchen and cook the hare, which Peter did with great pleasure. The flavor was so attractive that Peter couldn’t resist tasting the liver, thinking that Jesus wouldn’t notice. I won’t tell you the end of the story, you can find it in Italo Calvino’s Italian Folktales. I assure you it was not without humiliation for Peter. He had to suffer to become a saint.

Jesus in the meantime was hidden with no possibility to be found: back in the cave where he laid after the cross torture, and resuscitated two thousand years ago. This time he had a computer with him, and a calico cat. His beard was shaved and his hair cropped. For the next thousand years he was planning something very difficult to organize. “Poor Peter, he mumbled, you never really understood why I was not kind to you, nor the miracles: father me and the spirit knew from the beginning that humans fail, it’s their nature. We thought my body on the cross was such a terrible image that pity, or compassion, might help them. No way. Father’s mistake when he made me human, or my mistake for I am also my father, I am confused.” “Truth is, because I don’t want to be on the cross anymore, I will destroy all the images of me on the cross. Martin gave me the idea. They can replace me with a saxophone, a giraffe, a sound system, if they still want a cross. Machines are better then ever, not human nature: they kill in the streets, blow themselves up, build cities where hurricanes cannot be stopped, they spend money they do not have, and they eat too much.” Jesus sends an e-mail to father lord. “Remember Martin Kippenberger? He died not long ago. I don’t know where we put him. Can you make sure he is in Paradise?”

Anonymous small sculpture of undetermined age

Anonymous small sculpture of undetermined age