Born in Oels, Silesia in 1941, Sigmar Polke moved from Thuringia to Düsseldorf in 1953, where he embarked on an apprenticeship as a glass-painter in 1959. He spent the years 1961 - 1967 at the Düsseldorf art academy under Gerhard Hoehme and Karl Otto Götz, where he also met Gerhard Richter and others.In 1963 Richter and Polke joined forces with Konrad Fischer-Lueg and Manfred Kuttner to organize an exhibition entitled "Eine Demonstration für den kapitalistischen Realismus" ("A Demonstration for Capitalist Realism"). The exhibits were marked by their ironical treatment of consumer products and the critical use of everyday clichés.
Even in his early pieces, Polke's art was marked by wit and irony, most noticably so when he featured socks, sausages or interchangeable advertisements from travel brochures. The first grid and strip pictures as well as paintings on decorating fabrics emerged.
In 1966 Sigmar Polke was awarded the "Kunstpreis der Jugend" and had his first solo exhibition. During the 1970s he travelled extensively, working intensively in photography. Both in this field and in painting, Polke's work often has an experimental flavor, with coincidence and autonomous chemical processes becoming discernable.
In 1972 Polke first exhibitied his work at a "documenta". In 1977 he became a lecturer and in 1991 he was appointed professor at the "Hochschule für Bildende Künste" in Hamburg.
Sigmar Polke's work can regularly be seen at exhibitions in Germany and abroad. In 1997 the largest retrospective of his works up to date took place at the Federal German Art and Exhibition Hall in Bonn and at the "Galerie der Gegenwart", Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin.
Sigmar Polke died on 11 June 2010 in Cologne.