Born in Jena in 1954, Werner Büttner already caused a sensation in the 1980s as a representative of the Junge Wilde. Büttner had an enduring influence on the German art scene, through joint projects with Albert Oehlen and Martin Kippenberger as well as through his own painting. Werner Büttner’s pictures—still lifes, self-portraits, depictions of animals, and historical pictures—are characterized by social criticism and ironic contents with which the artist comments on human existence and activity without respecting taboos: “What is a human being. And how should he live? It is not clear to me that, in answering these questions, any progress has been made since Antiquity.” (Werner Büttner)
The volume of conversations “Zuweilen ist Ehrlichkeit die eleganteste Maske” (“Sometimes Honesty is the Most Elegant Mask”) is based on e-mail correspondence between Werner Büttner and the artist and curator Thomas Eller. Right from the start, the two of them let their exchange expand past a mere game of question and answer. Amid a contemplation of relevant works of art, the conversation oscillates between biographical narration, philosophical investigation, and artistic issues. What results is a combination of extremely personal confessions, provocative theses, and fascinating insights into Werner Büttner’s life and thought, his oeuvre, and his attitude towards painting.