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  • Provenance


    Galerie Buchmann, Basel; Private collection, Switzerland

  • Literature


    Gerhard Richter: Werkübersicht/Catalogue Raisonné 1962-1993, Ostfildern-Ruit, 1993, no 610-1, p. 180 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay


    "If I look at it that way, the whole thing starts to seem quite natural again- or rather Nature-like, alive."  (Gerhard Richter, artist’s statement, taken from M. Hetschel and H. Friedel, eds., Gerhard Richter 1998, London, 1998) 
    In the history of Gerhard Richter’s painterly career, the artist has focused on the very tenets that underlie the critical art movements of the twentieth century. First and foremost a painter, Richter has and continues to be a prolific literary artist as well, ascribing his own art to his profusely published theoretical writings and publications that help us to define his unique approaches within the scope of postmodernist art.The present lot, Abstraktes Bild 610-1 painted in 1986, illuminates in precise, eloquent manners the very core of Richter’s profession: that is in its examination of color and form the artist strives towards answering the fundamental phenomena of painting.
    Ever the consummate self-critic, Richter is aware at all times that on each occasion he engages his viewer he creates a new paradigm to view his artwork. His career, profuse and abounding in diverse styles and methodologies, has traversed literally every topoi of both classical and modern art historical canons.The artist works in these various modes with renewed vigor each time, so that on every juncture a new set of laws exists. Indeed, contemplating the artist’s diverse reflections and nuanced changes over his career causes much delight for an eager and educated viewer, for not only does Richter allow for his own interpretation to carry over to the viewer, he encourages, even demands, a new interpretation on every turn and deft handling of the brush.
    While ascribing to the distinct tenets of the artistic movement he references, Richter deliberates between fully ascribing to merely alluding, ultimately basing his own work off the parameters these styles set and not allowing their whole influence to define his artwork. In this way, the artist has remained uniquely visionary: adapting previous modicums to his own perfection. He exercises complete control and discretion over their influence on his own art. In his own words: “I do not pursue any particular intentions, system, or direction. I do not have a programme, a style, a course to follow. I have brought not being interested in specialist problems, working themes, in variations toward mastery. I shy away from all restrictions, I do not know what I want, I am I inconsistent, indifferent, passive; I like things that are indeterminate and boundless, and I like persistent uncertainty. Other qualities promote achievement, acquisition, success, but they are as superseded as ideologies, views, concepts and names for things. Now that we do not have priests and philosophers any more, artists are the most important people in the world.That is the only thing that interests me,” (Gerhard Richter, artist statement from 1966, taken from N. Serota, ed., Gerhard Richter, London, 1992, p. 109).
    Richter, while pursuing abstract painting from the very beginning of his career, first gave the title of Abstract Painting to his work in 1976, marking the beginning of his famous series of which the present lot is exemplary. Conspicuously aware of the possibilities lying within this form of painterly expression, Richter insists in an interview at the time the present lot was painted that, “They [Abstract Paintings] are models… or metaphors… pictures that are 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).
    So with this renewed proposition of exploring a change in his art, Richter “[…] resigned to the impossibility of drafting a valid image of the world, he clung to the belief ‘that Utopia, meaning, Futurity, Hope might materialize in my hands, unawares, as it were; because Nature, which is ourselves, is infinitely better, cleverer, richer than our short, limited, narrow reason can ever conceive.’ Accordingly, he adopted the principle of ‘letting a thing come, rather than creating it’,” (ibid, p. 13).
    As with any non-representational art form, one is inherently inclined to examine past its physical appearance for interpretations of the composition and underlying meaning.To pinpoint in Abstraktes Bild 610-1 the individual tenets within the painting is a lesson in Richter’s cunning.The painter relishes in the existence of multiple interpretations of his famed Abstract Pictures: “There is something uncontrollable and unpredictable about the genesis of the abstract pictures. If we look at the various stages in the genesis of one of these paintings, […] we constantly come across acts of conscious painterly formulation, especially in the early stages. But, as soon as Richter runs his squeegee over the initial application of paint, he is deliberately removing the form of the painting, in detail and as a whole, from the control of the artist’s hand. Gesture remains, but it conveys itself through a tool that ignores the detailed interplay of colours. As a result, there is something brusque, casual, even an times mechanical about these works,” (ibid, p, 13).
    Richter launched his artistic career with the pursuit of abstraction. The Abstract Pictures derive from his long-standing challenge to nonrepresentational art.When he began, in the early 1960s, to create his paintings as distillations of photographs, he did so with a deliberate breakdown of form and representational connection. In many ways, these early works mirror the art of traditional landscape painting as the artist recreates in his own mind a level plane on which to exercise control of his medium and composition, much like the canons of art history would have when engaging with a ‘landscape’, they were metaphysical, afterthoughts of the representational, linking into a philosophical frame of mind on which to contemplate the structure of the canvas, and the elements comprising the whole. Indeed, when presented up front with the enormity of Abstraktes Bild 610-1 one perceives the nuanced versions of interpretation, which overwhelmingly do suggest a landscape mode. The impact of this picture is one of startling beauty, akin to the glorified visions of nature that 19th century Romantic painters evoked in their ethereal visions of the divinely inspired hilltops and vistas.
    What is more there also presents itself a much more literal interpretation of nature within Abstraktes Bild 610-1. One impression is of standing face to face with a waterfall, the squeegeed sections of green and white have the impact of rushing streams of crystalline water, with a pure and forceful direction downwards in the composition.The burnt auburn visible in the upper portion likens to the sun itself. “The image of Nature can also present itself in a more generalized – that is to say, metaphorical – form. The metaphorical reading is based not so much on an imaginative interpretation of specific image formations as on the totality of the impression conveyed by the image.When asked about the associations evoked by his abstract paintings, Richter answered: ‘They remind you of natural experiences, even rain if you like.The paintings can’t help functioning that way.That’s what they get their effect from, the fact that they incessantly remind you of Nature, and so they’re almost naturalistic anyhow,” (ibid, p. 16).
    There is of course, a principal interpretation lying within the very colors Richter applies with large swaths and grand gestures. Abstraktes Bild 610-1 has a distinct, captive harmony of color, presenting red, green and violet hues with simultaneously delicate yet overwhelming applications.The artist pursues here and with this ongoing series a non-objective response, closely aligned with classic Modernism and its very roots in cosmic, metaphorical use of abstraction and color. But even more plainly associated are Richter’s bold use of color to the basic geometric grid work of Piet Mondrian, where the enormity of contrasting colors and juxtapositions conjures a musical score. Both Mondrian and Richter capture an aesthetic that is at once bold, expressive and polyphonic.
    For Mondrian ascribed to the minimalist structure but also relied on the heavy influence with which colors relate to each other. According to Mondrian it is through their position next to each other that there relationship draws significance. In direct opposition to paint and color mimicking a figure or abstraction of an object, Mondrian’s work conceives of the object as the relationship drawn between the mere juxtaposition of color and form. As he writes in 1919, “In painting you must first try to see composition, colour, and line and not the representation as representation. Then you will finally come to feel the subject matter a hindrance….The straight line tells the truth; and the significance you want it to have is of no value for painting; such significance is literary, preconceived. Painting has to be purely plastic, and in order to achieve this it must use plastic means that do not signify the individual.This also justifies the use of the rectangular color planes.” (Piet Mondrian, “Dialogue on the New Plastic”, taken from H. Holzman and M. James, eds., The New Art – The New Life: The Collected Writings of Piet Mondrian, Boston, 1996).
    Visually, Richter’s Abstraktes Bild 610-1 is close to the Microbes of Max Ernst, where both artists give way to the act of chance in their art; the colors, after all, choose themselves and offer up a whole new meaning when composed from this context.The opportunity for serendipity in the washes of paint makes Richter and Ernst’s artwork appear more closely connected to the traditional landscape method, as the artist’s mind takes over any literal, representational chance and redirects it towards an internal quest towards pure abstraction for the sake of it.
    So it becomes clear that Richter in part bases his Abstract Pictures on the icons of the classic Modernist past.The very root of color theory does play a crucial role in Abstraktes Bild 610-1. And a brief reminder of these philosophies is prudent, here transcribed is Kasimir Malevich’s manifesto on Suprematism from 1919: “In one of its many phases, Suprematism has a purely philosophical impetus, cognitive by means of colour: in another, it is a form capable of application by making available a new style of Suprematist decoration. But it may manifest itself in objects as a transformation or embodiment of space within them, thereby removing their singularity from the mind. It has become clear as a result of Suprematist philosophical colour thinking that the will is able to develop an artistic system when the object has been annulled in the artist’s mind as a pictorial framework and a vehicle, and that, as long as objects remain a framework and a vehicle, his will must go on gyrating within a compositional circle and among objective forms.” (Kasimir Malevich, “Non-Objective Art and Suprematism”, taken from L. Zhadova, Malevich: Suprematism and Revolution in Russian Art 1910-1920, London, 1982).
    Ultimately, Richter’s art is deliberate and precise, the beauty of his work lying within the myriad theoretical approaches combined with creative spirit. Abstraktes Bild 610-1 is a masterwork of the artist’s ingenuity. Richter is above all a painter who reflects on the abilities art is able, in an abstract sense, to reflect the spirit of the times and the intellectual systems at place to define them. By examining his picture’s incarnations over time, the artist underscores his profession’s responsibility to articulate these doctrines to the benefit of his public.

  • Artist Biography

    Gerhard Richter

    German • 1932

    One of the most influential living painters, 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’s oeuvre oscillates between unorthodoxy and realism, much to the delight of institutions and the market alike.  

    From his career start in 1962, Richter developed both his photorealist and abstracted languages side-by-side, producing voraciously and evolving his artistic style in rapid intervals. Many of Richter's paintings find themselves in the permanent collections of the world's most revered museums. 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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119

Abstraktes Bild 610-1 (Abstract Painting 610-1)

1986

Oil on canvas.

78 7/8 x 78 7/8 in. (200.3 x 200.3 cm).

Signed, dated, and numbered “Richter 1986, 610 – 1” on the reverse.

Estimate
$7,000,000 - 9,000,000 

Sold for $4,521,000

Contemporary Art Part I

15 May 2008, 7pm
New York