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Blinky Palermo, the German artist who stole his name from an American mobster

2 min read  · 20 Jun 2023

Blinky Palermo, Times of the Day I (1974–75). Dia Art Foundation. Copyright Blinky Palermo/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Bill Jacobson Studio, New York

Blinky Palermo, the abstract artist who achieved a mythic status after his early death, is on the HENI News radar.

Blinky Palermo’s HENI Score—a unique artist sentiment—has risen a spectacular 210% as collectors snap up his geometric abstract works at auction and a great, late work goes on show at the Dia:Beacon in upstate New York.

An artist’s HENI score amalgamates data such as auction sales, NFT sales, news and social media mentions, exhibitions and museum acquisitions.

Palermo's auction sales have totaled an impressive $17.36m over the past two years. In May 2023, a 1970 untitled abstract work sold for $6.31m at Sotheby's, above its high estimate. The same month, a 1969 untitled work of 1969 sold for $5.13m at Christie’s, its estimated price, reflecting the high demand for his work.

The Palermo estate is represented by David Zwirner. Palermo’s works, which range from geometric abstraction to minimalist sculptures, have been presented at leading art fairs, including editions of Art Basel and Tefaf.

Blinky Palermo, Untitled, dedicated to Thelonius Monk (1973). Edition of 30. Carolina Nitsch Contemporary Art, New York. Copyright the artist’s estate

The artist’s works on paper and editions have sold for as low at $600 to $3,000 over the past two years. Dealers of editions include Caroline Nitsch of New York, which offers works, such as Untitled, dedicated to Thelonius Monk (1973), an edition of 30.

Born in 1943 in wartime Germany, Peter Schwaze (later Heisterkamp after he and his brother were adopted) changed his name as a young art student. He chose "Blinky Palermo", the name of a convicted American mobster. As Palermo, the artist quickly made his mark in Germany and internationally, escaping the shadow of his tutor and friend, the charismatic German artist Joseph Beuys. In 1972, Palermo joined forces with fellow artist and friend Gerhard Richter, designing a pavilion for the Munich Olympics, which was never built. Palermo created a large body of work before his untimely death, aged 33 in 1977.

In August 2022, Dia: Beacon put on long-term display Palermo’s epic late work To the People of New York City (1976). It is a 15-part sequence of 40 aluminum panels painted in a variation of red, yellow, and black color combinations. The artist began the work while living in New York, completing it on his return to Dusseldorf where it was discovered in the artist’s studio after his sudden death.

To get a deeper understanding of Blinky Palermo’s career visit his HENI Dashboard; a unique graphical data tool illustrating an artist’s auction sales, shows, profiles, mentions and their HENI Score. You can search for any one of the 100,000 Artist Dashboards to quickly appreciate their trajectory as well as sharing via email, text and WhatsApp.


Blinky Palermo

New York