Gerhard Richter - 20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, July 2, 2020 | Phillips

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  • In Short


    “With abstract painting we create a better means of approaching what can neither be seen nor understood”
    – Gerhard Richter


  • A Journey to Abstraction

  • The 90s: An Age of Success

    Considering its newfound vigor and majestic palette in relation to Richter’s earlier abstracts, Abstraktes Bild can be read as a manifestation of the immense personal and professional contentment the painter experienced in the early to mid-1990s. His reputation as one of the most influential living artists was cemented in a series of major exhibitions held during the period: first with a 1991 breakthrough retrospective at Tate Gallery, London, then his inclusion in documenta IX the following year, and in 1993, a large-scale, travelling survey of his career, Gerhard Richter: Malerei 1962-1993. Of the latter exhibit, which included 130 works executed over three decades, critic Doris von Drathen observed that "there are exhibitions that, like great milestones, reset the standards in contemporary art. Richter's retrospective, launching now at the ARC [Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris] in Paris, is of this quality."

    Whilst painting Abstraktes Bild in 1994, soon after this bout of professional euphoria, Richter was completing a series of adoring portrayals of his new love Sabine Moritz, whom he married and  who gave birth to their first child together the following year. Similarly to the passionate affection palpable in his abstracts, his figurative paintings from the same year—such as the photorealist masterpieces Lesende (Reader), High Museum of Art, Atlanta—exude a warmth and tenderness for Sabine, a confident buoyancy unprecedented in Richter’s oeuvre.
        Gerhard Richter, S. with Child [827-1], 1995. Hamburger Kusthalle, Artwork © Gerhard Richter 2020 (0093)


  • The Master's Tool

    For Richter, the squeegee is the most important implement for integrating coincidence into his art. For years, he used it sparingly, but he came to appreciate how the structure of paint applied with a squeegee can never be completely controlled. It thus introduces a moment of surprise that often enables him to extricate himself from a creative dead-end, destroying a prior, unsatisfactory effort and opening the door to a fresh start"
    – Dietmar Elger


    In the mid-1980s, Richter started utilizing a homemade squeegee to smear and scrape paint across his canvases. A counterpoint to modernism’s fetishism of the artist’s hand, his use of the squeegee introduced a new instrument, the effect of which straddles the line between intention and coincidence.  Utilizing a wet-on-wet procedure, in which he applied the top shade before the prior layers completely dried, Richter created distinctive formations of paint that both melt into each other and separate in a complex lattice of vivid metamorphoses of colors.


  • Painting as Truth

    The investigation of painting’s ability to reveal truth is present in Richter’s entire oeuvre, from his photo-realist paintings to his abstracts to his softy-blurred landscapes and everything in between—each work reflects Richter’s ambivalence towards the medium, asking: though both abstract and figurative painting strive towards representation of internal or external truths, can that ever actually be captured? Are painting’s efforts to represent truth futile? In our attempts to imitate reality or truth, are we actually obscuring it?

    A triumph of his mature period, Abstraktes Bild presents Richter’s dilemma concerning the adequacy of representation both conceptually and formally: the work hints at an internal truth existing on the canvas, which is then obscured by the myriad layers that rest atop it, alluding to his own endeavors to use paint as a truth-telling device, though it always ends up actually concealing what meant to be represented. In the sense, his abstract works address the same issues his figurative paintings do in their foggy, blurred renderings of historical or family photographs. “Abstract paintings are like fictitious models because they visualize a reality which we can neither see nor describe but which we nevertheless conclude exists,” Richter concluded in a catalogue text for documenta 7. “[But] with abstract painting we create a better means of approaching what can neither be seen nor understood because abstract painting illustrates with the greatest clarity.”

    “I constantly despair at my own incapacity, at the impossibility of ever accomplishing anything, of painting a valid, true picture or of even of knowing what such a thing ought to look like. But then I always have the hope that, if I persevere, it might one day happen. And this hope is nurtured every time something appears, a scattered, partial, initial hint of something which reminds me of what I long for, or which conveys a hint of it” – Gerhard Richter 
  • Collector's Digest

    One of the significant contemporary artists working today, Richter’s innovative approach is currently being celebrated in his major retrospective at the Met Breuer, Gerhard Richter: Painting After All.

    Garnering formidable institutional acclaim for decades, numerous Richter abstracts already belong to major museums and public collections worldwide.


    • Provenance

      Galerie Fred Jahn, Munich
      Collection Norbert Königs, Aachen
      Galerie Springer & Winckler, Berlin
      Barbara Mathes Gallery, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in August 2000

    • Exhibited

      Carré d'Art, Museé d'Art Contemporain de Nîmes, Gerhard Richter. 100 Bilder, June 15 – September 15, 1996, p. 59 (illustrated)
      Aachen-Kornelimünster, Ehemalige Reichsabtei, Gerhard Richter. Werke aus Aachener Sammlungen, November 14, 1999 – January 9, 2000, no. 26, p. 94 (illustrated, p. 63)
      New York, Barbara Mathes Gallery, Gerhard Richter: Paintings from the 1980s, February 1 – April 13, 2002
      Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Until Now: Collecting the New (1960-2010), April 16 – August 1, 2010

    • Literature

      Gerhard Richter, exh. cat., Anthony d’Offay Gallery, London, 1998, no. 801-3, p. 103 (illustrated, p. 86)
      Gerhard Richter, exh. cat., K20 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Dusseldorf, 2005, no. 801-3, p. 309 (illustrated, p. 268)
      Dietmar Elger, ed., Gerhard Richter: Catalogue Raisonné 1988-1994, vol. 4 (Nos. 652-1 – 805-6), Ostfildern, 2015, no. 801-3, p. 577 (illustrated)

    • 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

Property from a Midwestern Collector


Abstraktes Bild (801-3)

signed, inscribed and dated “801-3 Richter 1994” on the reverse
oil on canvas
28 1/8 x 24 1/8 in. (71.4 x 61.3 cm)
Painted in 1994.

Full Cataloguing

$2,000,000 - 3,000,000 

Sold for $3,680,000

Contact Specialist

Amanda Lo Iacono
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1278

20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 2 July 2020