Gerhard Richter and Isa Genzken - Evening & Day Editions London Wednesday, June 7, 2023 | Phillips

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  • “There is nothing worse in art than, ‘you see it and you know it’… That’s a certainty I don’t like.”
    —Isa Genzken

    Enigmatic and intriguing, Tri-star is a collaboration between two of the most important German artists alive today: Gerhard Richter and Isa Genzken. Originally conceived by Genzken in 1979 as an edition of 40 works, Tri-Star consists of a phonograph record which features the noises made by the titular Tri-Star aeroplane motor. In 1981, Richter used grey nitro lacquer to paint one side of the records for a further edition of 75, to which the present lot belongs. Despite their varied artistic processes and differing areas of interest, Tri-Star signifies Genzken’s and Richter’s united desire to create conceptual artwork that is deliberately inscrutable but ultimately thought-provoking.


    Gerhard Richter, Isa Genzken, 1983. Image/Artwork: © Gerhard Richter 2023 (0121)

    While the title of Tri-Star points to a tangible object, the relationship between artwork and title evades comprehension at first glance. In fact, it is only once the record is played out loud that the connection between object and title becomes clear, even if the reasons for creating such a soundtrack remain obscure. Famed for her inventiveness and her engagement with an astonishing variety of artistic techniques, Genzken is renowned for analysing the human experience in contemporary society and critiquing capitalism through her artwork. By recording a Tri-Star aeroplane – one of the earliest wide-body airliners to enter commercial operations – and disseminating the sound in the same format one would expect music to be distributed, Genzken seemingly alludes to anxieties surrounding the impact increased modernity and technology might have on the arts and creativity. Yet, characteristically, this is never overtly stated, and Genzken’s recording is instead left open for the viewer to decipher.

    “Grey. It makes no statement whatever; it evokes neither feelings nor associations: it is really neither visible nor invisible. Its inconspicuousness gives it the capacity to mediate, to make visible, in a positively illusionistic way, like a photograph. It has the capacity that no other colour has, to make 'nothing' visible.”
    —Gerhard Richter

    Genzken’s conceptual approach to Tri-Star is echoed in Richter’s material engagement with the work. Attracted to the neutrality and inconspicuousness of grey, Richter applied the industrial paint on the reverse of each record in varying organic circles. Richter’s use of grey is well documented as being deliberately indecipherable. In the 1970s, the artist produced several groups of grey paintings which are widely interpreted as a reaffirmation of his understanding of artistic purity. As equally opaque as Genzken’s approach, Richter’s use of materials actively symbolises his resistance to engage with implicit ideologies in his artwork.


    Aside from being an important collaboration of artistic principle, Tri-Star marks a significant intersection in the personal lives of the two German artists. Genzken and Richter met in the 1970s at Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, where Genzken was a student and Richter was a professor of painting. They began living together in the early 1980s before marrying in 1982 - the year after Tri-Star was produced. Although the pair divorced in 1993, they collaborated on several projects throughout their marriage, including a design for the interior of the underground station at König-Heinrich-Platz in Duisburg, which remains in place today.

    • Literature

      Hubertus Butin 57
      Ars Publicata, Isa Genzken Editions, 1981.01


Tri-Star (B. 57)

Phonograph record by Isa Genzken, featuring noises made by a Tri-Star aeroplane motor, one side painted by Gerhard Richter with grey nitro lacquer, with the original black cardboard record sleeve.
17.5 cm (6 7/8 in.) diameter
Signed and dated in black ink on the grey nitro lacquer and numbered 27/75 in black ink on the yellow label affixed to the reverse, co-published by Isa Genzken and Gerhard Richter, Düsseldorf, unframed.

Full Cataloguing

£10,000 - 15,000 ‡♠

Sold for £10,795

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Evening & Day Editions

London Auction 7 - 8 June 2023