Blinky Palermo

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Blinky Palermo (1970) (portrait by Lothar Wolleh )

Blinky Palermo (born June 2, 1943 in Leipzig , † February 17, 1977 in Kurumba , Maldives , originally Peter Heisterkamp ) was a German painter , environment and object artist .


childhood and education

Palermo, born as Peter Schwarze on June 2, 1943 in Leipzig, was adopted in the same year by Erika and Wilhelm Heisterkamp together with his twin brother Michael . His sister Renate was born on November 9, 1944. In 1952 the family moved to the West and have lived in Münster since then , where his father worked for Mannesmann . Palermo attended the Schiller-Gymnasium in Münster in 1953, up to the Untersekunda , and from 1959 to the Obersekunda, the Arnoldinum Gymnasium in Burgsteinfurt . In 1961 he attended the Werkkunstschule in Münster and took graphic and sculpture courses. From 1962 he studied at the Düsseldorf Art Academy , initially with Bruno Goller , where he painted portraits in the style of surrealism . In 1964 he switched to the class of Joseph Beuys , who appointed him his master class student in the winter of 1966/67 , with which he completed his studies. At the art academy, Peter Heisterkamp gave himself the stage name Palermo - that's how he drew all of his works. The nickname Blinky was only common among friends. The name was adapted from Sonny Liston 's Italian-American mafioso and boxing promoter of the same name . Allegedly, his later friend and artist colleague Anatol Herzfeld brought him on the name, because the artist in his beatnik outfit with leather jacket, hat and sunglasses had a certain resemblance to the Mafioso. According to other sources, the name change was a reaction to a statement by the art teacher Beuys: "With the name Heisterkamp you can never become an artist."

On June 4, 1965, Palermo married Ingrid Denneborg.

Düsseldorf, New York, Düsseldorf

After completing his studies in 1967, Palermo first worked as a bartender in the Düsseldorf scene bar Creamcheese . In the same year he separated from Ingrid Denneborg and on June 10, 1969 married Kristin Hanigk, whom he had met the year before through Sigmar Polke . In 1969 Palermo moved to Mönchengladbach , where, with the help of Johannes Cladders , he got a job in a former carpenter's workshop. In Mönchengladbach, he first had a studio community with Imi Knoebel , then with Ulrich Rückriem . Together with Henning Christiansen, he temporarily cooperated in his actions.

Palermo's grave in Munster

In 1970 he went on a study trip to New York with his friend and artist colleague Gerhard Richter , where he was to set up a studio from 1973. Together with Imi Knoebel he undertook a car tour of America in September 1974, during which he visited the newly opened Rothko Chapel in Houston and the Las Vegas Piece by Walter De Maria . In the same year he became friends with the painter Brice Marden .

In February 1975, during a visit to Germany, Palermo separated from his wife Kristin Hanigk. In New York he lived with the painter Robin Bruch. At the beginning of 1976 the artist returned to Düsseldorf and met Babette Polter and in the autumn of the same year moved into Gerhard Richter's former studio.

In February 1977 Palermo died unexpectedly on the Maldives island of Kurumba while on vacation with Babette Polter. There is talk of heart failure, in other places of “unexplained circumstances” or a car accident. He was buried in the municipal central cemetery in Münster . After the rest period, Palermo was given an honor grave in 2008.


Close friendships were formed with artist colleagues Sigmar Polke, Gerhard Richter and Imi Knoebel as early as his student days . Palermo worked with different media and techniques in the course of his short career. Following the Suprematist Kasimir Malewitsch , Palermo developed “his work on the basis of a complex and experimental approach to form and color” and set a new “standard of vision”. A first deviation from the usual panel painting were his wall objects, wooden shapes wrapped with canvas or adhesive tape such as Green T , 1966, Composition Red / Orange , 1967 or Blue Disc and Rod , 1968, as well as fabric images made of different colored nettle panels such as Stoffbild , 1966.The latter he made from 1966 until 1972. These "pictures" were sewn together on Stretcher tense, commercial textile fabrics, painted the Palermo with standard industrial colors. " Rothkos from the textile department store" believed some critics to recognize here. This somewhat disrespectful approach, wrote others, "would certainly have liked Marcel Duchamp very much".

From 1968 to 1973 Palermo also devoted himself to wall painting and wall drawing. Among other things, in art galleries, but also in the Munich Art Forum, more than 20 works of this kind were created, of which it was believed that none had survived. It was not until autumn 2010 that an old factory in Mönchengladbach was being rebuilt, and the artist's only surviving wall painting, which was created in 1970, was discovered. Palermo also made such works abroad, for example in Edinburgh and Brussels . "Blinky Palermo's site-specific works make spatial references clear."

From 1974 the artist made his so-called metal pictures. Acrylic paints were applied to aluminum and steel panels. As with his wall painting, spatial references remained important with the metal pictures: not the individual picture is the focus, but the overall effect and interaction of several works in the room. In almost all Palermo creations, the presentation and hanging of the pictures / objects is very important and part of the work.


Not least because of his early and not clearly resolved death, Palermo has become a “mythical figure of post-war art” (Laura Cummings), a kind of “ James Dean of the art scene”. His work would also bear witness to a great, not fully realized talent and potential. Above all, Palermo's color field wall paintings are seen as an extension of painting into space; the otherwise invisible architectural environment was made visible with its contribution to the effect of the work of art. Others see the machinery of mystification of the art market at work here, which seeks to glorify an artist who was basically just an “interior designer with lofty ideas”.

In any case, Palermo remains an artist that is difficult to classify: he stands neither for simply performing, nor for purely abstract-conceptual art. Some interpret him as a minimalist , others see too many sensual and tactile qualities at work. "He never resolved the conflict between blob and sharp edge". At Palermo, quotes from reality, such as the design of a pinball machine, meet conceptual aspects. The works appear "monastic and mischievous at the same time."

Palermo's “early focus on constructivist pictorial elements and color field painting remained decisive for his entire work” (Prestel-Künstlerlexikon). The distance between the material and reduced art of Palermo and the style of its profound transcendentalist teacher Joseph Beuys has often been noted. His pictures are now hanging in the hallways of Deutsche Bank , they have been covered with theoretical analyzes. They seem to be "far too fragile to endure so much stressed theory."

Exhibitions and retrospectives

A total of 70 Palermo exhibitions took place during the artist's lifetime.


  • 1960: Winterwald , monotype on paper, 12.5 × 9 cm, Deutsche Bank, Frankfurt am Main.
  • 1964: Self-portrait, watercolor and pencil on squared paper , 14.8 × 10.4 cm, Olga Lina and Stella Liza Knoebel collection, Düsseldorf.
  • 1965: Red-Blue Cross , gouache , collaged, 46.5 × 23.5 cm, Museum Ludwig , Cologne.
  • 1966: Feet , watercolor and pencil on squared paper, 19.6 × 12.7 cm, Dr. Bernd Mittelsten Scheid, Munich.
  • 1967: Hymn to the night , watercolor, silver bronze and pencil on paper, 25.0 × 20.0 cm, Bernd and Verena Klüser Collection, Munich.
  • 1970: Fabric image green , fabric on nettle, 200 × 70 cm, Kunsthalle Bielefeld , Bielefeld.

Blinky Palermo Scholarship

Since 2001, the Ostdeutsche Sparkassenstiftung has been awarding a Blinky Palermo scholarship in cooperation with the Galerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst Leipzig . Palermo's style inspired and A. the artist Günther Förg , his surprising end was the theme of Julian Schnabel in his painting.


  • Carla Schulz-Hoffmann, Peter-Klaus Schuster : German art since 1960. From the collection of Prince Franz of Bavaria . Prestel Verlag, Munich 1985, ISBN 3-7913-0706-1 .
  • Dieter Honisch (Vorw.): 1945–1985 Art in the Federal Republic of Germany , National Gallery. Staatliche Museen Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin 1985, ISBN 3-87584-158-1 .
  • Herwig Guratsch / Klaus Werner (Vorw.): Blinky Palermo, Museum of Fine Arts Leipzig, June 6 to August 15, 1993; Kunstraum München , September 9 to November 20, 1993, Edition Cantz, Ostfildern-Ruit 1993, ISBN 3-89322-558-7 .
  • Sabine Grosser: Palermo. An approach to his work and its reception . Peter Lang Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1996, ISBN 3-631-30270-3 .
  • Susanne Küper, Ulrike Groos, Vanessa Joan Müller (eds.): Palermo. Catalog for the exhibition, Kunsthalle Düsseldorf and Art Association for the Rhineland and Westphalia 2007–2008, Cologne 2007.
  • Jörn Merkert , Dieter Ronte, Walter Smerling (eds.): Collected spaces, collected dreams. Art from Germany from 1960 to 2000. Pictures and rooms from the Grothe Collection in the Martin-Gropius-Bau . November 21, 1999 to February 6, 2000. DuMont, Cologne 1999, ISBN 3-7701-4871-1 .
  • Bernhart Schwenk:  Palermo, Blinky. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 20, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2001, ISBN 3-428-00201-6 , p. 10 f. ( Digitized version ).
  • Blinky Palermo - The entire graphics (brochure for the exhibition in the Museum DKM), text by Erich Franz. 1. verb. Edition. DKM Foundation, ISBN 978-3-942650-05-2 , 34 pages

Web links

Commons : Blinky Palermo  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b Dieter Honisch (Vorw.): Art in the Federal Republic of Germany 1945–1985 , National Gallery. Staatliche Museen Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin 1985, p. 414
  2. H. Brinkmann: Anatol - Lebenszeiten Arbeitszeiten , p. 102
  3. The Palermo legend at
  4. Jörn Merkert, Dieter Ronte, Walter Smerling (eds.): Collected Rooms Collected Dreams. Art from Germany from 1960 to 2000. Pictures and rooms from the Grothe Collection in the Martin-Gropius-Bau . DuMont, Cologne 1999, p. 344
  5. a b c d e f Blinky Palermo. Biography ( Memento from February 19, 2009 in the Internet Archive )
  6. Museum Abteiberg via the mural  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. ,, accessed on October 26, 2011@1@ 2Template: Toter Link /  
  7. Laura Cummings: A mysterious man of the cloth .
  8. Kunstaspekte, Düsseldorf: Blinky Palermo , accessed on June 14, 2013