Gerhard Richter - Contemporary Art Part I New York Wednesday, May 11, 2011 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Collection of the artist; Anthony d’Offay Gallery, London; Private collection, London; Galerie Löhrl, Mönchengladbach; Collection Plum, Aachen; Private collection, New York

  • Exhibited

    Rotterdam, Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Gerhard Richter 1988/89, October 15 - December 3, 1989, p. 69 (illustrated in color); Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; Bonn, Kunst und Ausstellungshalle der BRD; Stockholm, Moderna Museet; Madrid, Museo Nacional de Arte Reina Sofía, Gerhard Richter: Retrospective, September 23, 1993 - August 22, 1994, p. 119 (illustrated in color); Aachen-Kornelimünster, Ehemalige Reichsabtei, Gerhard Richter. Werke aus Aachener Sammlungen, November 14, 1999 - January 9, 2000, p. 51 (illustrated in color); Friedrichshafen, Kunstverein Friedrichshafen in the Zeppelin Museum, Gerhard Richter: Malerei 1966-1997, 2001, p. 55 (illustrated in color); Kleve, Museum Kurhaus, Sammlung Plum, May 5 - September 5, 2004, p. 17 (illustrated in color); Dusseldorf, K20 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen and Munich, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus und Kunstbau, Gerhard Richter, February 12 - August 24, 2005, p. 198 (illustrated in color)

  • Literature

    K. Schampers, Gerhard Richter, 1988/89, Rotterdam, 1989, p. 69 (illustrated in color); A. Thill, et al., Gerhard Richter Catalogue Raisonné 1962-1993, Volume III, Ostfildern, 1993, no. 666-5 (illustrated in color); R. Mönig, ed., Sammlung Plum, Kleve, 2004, p. 17 (illustrated in color)

  • Catalogue Essay

    If I paint an abstract picture I neither know in advance what it is supposed to look like, nor where I intend to go when I am painting, what could be done, to what end. For this reason the painting is a quasi blind, desperate effort, like that made by someone who has been cast out into a completely incomprehensible environment with no means of support — by someone who has a reasonable range of tools, materials and abilities and the urgent desire to build something meaningful and useful, but it cannot be a house or a chair or anything else that can be named, and therefore just starts building in the vague hope that his correct, expert activity will finally produce
    something correct and meaningful.


    (Gerhard Richter quoted in Gerhard Richter, Tate Gallery, London 1991, p. 116)

    Gerhard Richter has firmly held a position as one of the most influential artists of the last 50 years. His career has been devoted to exploring and mastering oil paint, his chosen medium, the impact of which has been extraordinary and immensely far-reaching. By 1976 when he first conceived of the title Abstraktes Bild he was already an accomplished painter of subjects derived from real life. This title accompanies his subsequent paintings to the present day. Foregoing a belief in the utility of figurative painting, Richter’s artistic process is one of searching rather than finding. Since the inception of this body of work, his resignation to seeking has continued to yield
    limitless discovery with his visually rich Abstraktes Bild.

    The present lot is exemplary of his abstract series as a whole, in which each painting, is “a model or metaphor about a possibility of social coexistence. Looked at in this way, all that I am trying to do in each picture is to bring together the most disparate and mutually contradictory elements, alive and viable, in the greatest possible freedom,” (M. Hetschel and H. Friedel, eds., Gerhard Richter 1998, London, 1998, p. 11). Ironically, he achieves this freedom through a rigorous and meticulous technique involving the removal and reapplication of separate layers of paint. With the variance of each layer, chance delivers an unpredictable configuration of colors. The final result is masterful; the colors, though static as the canvas ultimately coalesces, achieve a seeming iridescence; they radiate against both the darker and lighter tones that surround them. The relationship between the colors becomes symbiotic.

    Richter’s other work, which includes his early color chart paintings as well as his later portraits, utilizes bold organization of color. In this manner, his work equates to a complex intellectual study in both mathematics and optical experience. These particular works chronicle his career as a scientific artist, one who finds experimental uses for the conventional palette. It is in these paintings that we see Richter’s most vigorous rational pursuits and a crossroads of artistry and intellect. His abstract series, represented in Abstraktes Bild, comes from a visceral and unrestrained process of creation—it could not present a more dramatic departure from these other series.

    In his personal notes, written in 1974, Richter explains, “In order to represent all shades of color that occur in one picture I developed a system that—starting on the basis of the three primary colors and grey—proceed in stages that were always equal and made possible an ever-increasing degree in differentiation.” (“Gerhard Richter: Notes 1966-1990”, Gerhard Richter, London 1991, p. 111) With this insight into his methodical way of thinking, we further understand the fundamentals of his early processes, as well appreciate the drastic evolution of his work.

    Though Gerhard Richter achieves each abstract picture through a unique and unrestrained process, the present lot has a distinct harmony of color; the hints of green and yellow surrounded by a variety of blue hues are each simultaneously delicate yet overpowering in their thickness of body. Though one may find a retreating horizon in the gradually darkening indigos in the upper portions of the painting, perhaps resembling a seascape, one can also find the conflict of neutral grays and powerful blues to stage an ideological battle. It is this potential for disparate analysis that makes the work a remarkable achievement in subjectivity; abstraction gives way to interpretation in its most emotional form.

    Gerhard Richter’s abstract work pairs the elusive and the evocative with profound power. Richter’s aim, to create something “correct and
    meaningful”, ultimately hinges on the decision of the viewer to acknowledge his own experience as unique. What is correct, what is meaningful, is something which is, in the end, deeply personal.

  • Artist Biography

    Gerhard Richter

    German • 1932

    Powerhouse painter Gerhard Richter has been a key player in defining the formal and ideological agenda for painting in contemporary art. His instantaneously recognizable canvases literally and figuratively blur the lines of representation and abstraction. Uninterested in classification, Richter skates between unorthodoxy and realism, much to the delight of institutions and the market alike. 

    Richter's color palette of potent hues is all substance and "no style," in the artist's own words. From career start in 1962, Richter developed both his photorealist and abstracted languages side-by-side, producing voraciously and evolving his artistic style in short intervals. Richter's illusory paintings find themselves on the walls of the world's most revered museums—for instance, London’s Tate Modern displays the Cage (1) – (6), 2006 paintings that were named after experimental composer John Cage and that inspired the balletic 'Rambert Event' hosted by Phillips Berkeley Square in 2016. 

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Abstraktes Bild

Oil on canvas.
78 3/4 x 63 in. (199.9 x 160 cm).
Signed, dated and numbered “Richter 1988 666-5” on the reverse.

$3,000,000 - 4,000,000 

Sold for $4,114,500

Contemporary Art Part I

12 May 2011
New York