Anna Oppermann was born in Eutin, Germany in 1940 and studied from 1962 to 1968 at the Hochschule für bildende Künste Hamburg and philosophy at the University of Hamburg. After a visiting lectureship in Hamburg and professorship in Wuppertal, from 1990 until her premature death in 1993, Oppermann was a professor at the Berlin University of the Arts. From the 1970s, numerous galleries and museums hosted solo exhibitions of Oppermann’s work, including the Hamburger Kunsthalle; she took part in the documenta 6 (1977) and 8 (1987), the Biennials in Venice (1980) and Sydney (1984), and was awarded a number of prizes. In 2007, the Generali Foundation in conjunction with the Württembergischen Kunstverein in Stuttgart presented the first comprehensive solo exhibition of Anna Oppermann since her death.
Anna Oppermann developed a characteristic working method over the course of many years, by puting together arrangements compiled from a multitude of drawings, photographs, picture canvases, and handwritten notes. For these, she coined the term “Ensembles.” The artist considered these works as invitations to interaction; based on her own definition, they were not subjected to any normative ordering system. She strove to act as mediator between the various disciplines, between ratio and sensual perception, between art and science, normal citizens and outsiders. The ensembles circulate, among other things, around problem areas such as the role of the woman as artist in the late 1960s, the relationship of normality and being an outsider in the context of existing social norms, the dynamics of human relationships, and ultimately, the process of making art itself in relation to the mechanisms of the art market. The individual Ensembles did not develop in a linear fashion, but rather, in networked episodes, and had to be reassembled for each exhibition and thus newly staged, so to speak. Since photos of each new installation were meant to be integrated in each subsequent new assembly, the Ensembles also continue to grow posthumously. They are conceived as open constellations in a state of permanent change. Oppermann is one of those exceptional personalities in the art world, who in the sense of Harald Szeemann’s “individual mythologies” co-shaped a new concept of process-based art and obsessive self- inquiry coupled with precise analysis of social and political sensibilities.