Gerhard Richter - Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, May 15, 2014 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Anthony d'Offay Gallery, London
    Barbara Mathes Gallery, New York
    Galerie Leu, Munich
    Private Collection, Germany
    Sotheby's, London, Contemporary Art Day Auction, June 29, 2010, lot 230
    Private Collection
    Gagosian Gallery, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Nîmes, France, Carré d'Art, Museé d'Art Contemporain de Nîmes, Gerhard Richter - 100 Bilder, June 15 – September 15, 1996
    New York, Barbara Mathes Gallery, Gerhard Richter: Works on Paper, Photographs, Editions, January 28 – March 22, 2005
    Munich, Galerie Leu, Kusama – Chamberlain – Richter, April 23 – May 30, 2009

  • Literature

    M. Hentschel, H. Friedel, Gerhard Richter, Anthony d'Offay Gallery, London, 1998, p. 105, p. 92 (illustrated)
    H. Ulrich Obrist, B. Pelzer, G. Tosatto, Gerhard Richter. 100 Pictures, Ostfildern-Ruit: Hatje Cantz, 1996, p. 77 (illustrated)
    A. Zweite, Gerhard Richter, Catalogue Raisonné for the Paintings 1993-2004, Düsseldorf: Richter Verlag, New York: D.A.P Distributed Art Publishers, 2005, no. 825-9 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “Perhaps because I’m a bit uncertain, a bit volatile...I’d always been fascinated by abstraction. It’s so mysterious, like an unknown land.”


    Gerhard Richter’s reputation as the most virtuosic painter working today is founded on an astoundingly vast oeuvre that spans five decades. Having risen to esteem during the 1960s Richter has never wavered in his steadfast commitment to startling innovation of technique. The extensive variety of his ongoing artistic production has allowed him to master the fundamental principles of his medium. In this present lot, Richter has decisively selected a moody palette of tones that are set against luminous, more delicate shades of violet, which bleed into volcanic reds, softer pink, orange and yellow hues. For a purely “abstract” picture, the artist’s choice of color leaves more than a suggestion of a golden, summer twilight. It is precisely this infinite potential for disparate interpretation that renders the work as a notable achievement in subjectivity.

    Abstraktes Bild, which simply translates from German to Abstract Painting, exemplifies the pivotal moment in 1976 when the artist consciously abandoned figurative practice in what constituted a dramatic departure from his previous works. The artist defines, “abstract paintings [as] fictitious models… which we can neither see nor describe, but which we may nevertheless conclude exist.” (Gerhard Richter, in Gerhard Richter: Paintings, exh. cat., Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 1988, p. 107).

    Richter has since returned in his work to his own archive of creative production, continually referring to and assembling techniques with heightened self-awareness, oscillating between Abstract painting and naturalistic form, continually exploring the limits and uncertainties of the twin poles of contemporary image making: representation and abstraction. Initially, for the Abstraktes Bild series, often referred to as ‘Soft Abstracts,’ Richter conceived of a blown-up image relating to the experience of inspecting the surface of a painting in minute detail, as through a magnifying glass. The artist took enlarged photographs of variously coloured brushstrokes, projected and copied them onto each canvas, resulting in an impression of complete abstraction. The effect of the blown-up image in Abstraktes Bild is not simply an increase in size, but a transformation in the identity of the initial image and the resulting impact on the viewer. He suggests the objective of the enlargement in a letter to Benjamin Buchloh: “The outsize Blown-Up, which allows you to cheat, is for the time being the only form that can make real and comprehensible the ‘message’ that I want to present as fascinatingly as possible.” (M. Godfrey, N. Serota, ed., Gerhard Richter | Panorama, p. 126). At the execution date of Abstraktes Bild, 1995, the artist had ceased to use photographs as a point of reference, reducing these latter ‘free’ paintings to pure abstraction, completely devoid of all vestiges of subject matter.

    At a time when it is argued that we have gone beyond painting in art, Richter demonstrates that questions of this medium continue to prove vitally relevant to artistic practice. The rigorous and meticulous technique that he invented for the Abstraktes Bild series involves applying layers upon layers of paint onto the canvas, each time sweeping over the thick pigment with a squeegee, resulting in accidental configurations of colour. This technique produces a multifaceted, illusionistic surface, from which he eliminates any trace of the brushstroke.

    Richter’s technique here is subject to chance. The outcome of the work cannot be predetermined; each step is necessarily contingent upon the next. This instinctive process of development harkens to the mid-twentieth century Abstract Expressionists, among them Jackson Pollock’s iconic ‘drip paintings’, in which he poured paint directly from the can, or with the assistance of sticks and other non-traditional materials onto the surface of the canvas, which he placed on the floor. This element of chance in Richter’s work could be compared to Surrealist Automatism; an abstract artistic form, involving a suppression of consciousness in favor of direct unmitigated experience. The artist clarifies his approach: “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… 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) The fearlessness and abandon with which Richter performs his painterly experiment reveals his inimitable skill and innovation as a colorist, which has been compared to Mark Rothko’s individual artistic genius, illustrated by his immediately recognizable work from the late 1950s and 60s: large soft edged areas of luminous color on canvas.
    Richter’s Abstraktes Bild, 1995, exemplary of the notoriously complex series as a whole, is a singular vision, imbued with a fervent, passionate energy that breathes life from the canvas. This sophisticated piece is at once elusive and evocative, universal and subjective. It clearly establishes a dialogue between figurative and abstract modes of representation while paying homage to the greatest abstract artists of the twentieth century, of which Richter is irrefutably one.

  • 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. 

    View More Works


Abstraktes Bild 825-9

oil on canvas
20 3/8 x 24 3/8 in. (51.8 x 61.9 cm.)
Signed, numbered and dated "Richter 1995 825-9" on the reverse.

$800,000 - 1,200,000 

Contact Specialist
Zach Miner
Head of Sale
+1 212 940 1256

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 15 May 2014 7PM