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  • A striking example of his mature oeuvre, Gerhard Richter’s Abstraktes Bild (940-2), 2015 encapsulates the unrelenting formal innovation that distinguishes the artist’s interrogation of truth and perception in painting. Incorporating the artist’s innovative squeegee technique that invites chance into his process, Abstraktes Bild exemplifies the masterful effects of this formal innovation, presenting the viewer with visual meditations on “transparency and opacity, proximity and distance, forgetting, remembering, and expecting.”i

     

     

    Abstraktes Bild evidences Richter’s potential solution for the inadequacy of representation in both formal and conceptual terms. Seeking to reenergize painting at its critical nadir in the age of conceptual art, in the 1960s, Richter began to use a homemade squeegee to smear and scrape paint across his canvases. A counterpoint to the cult of the handcrafted, Richter’s squeegee fused mechanical control and chance to blur the lines between intention and coincidence. Layering strata of wet paint, Richter creates distinctive painterly formations in Abstraktes Bild that both melt into each other and scatter into complex fractals of vivid color. Archivist and scholar Dietmar Elger observed that Richter’s 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.”ii
    "With abstract painting we create a better means of approaching what can neither be seen nor understood."
    —Gerhard Richter

     

    The serendipitous effect of Richter’s idiosyncratic process partially removes the artist’s hand from each composition as he distorts the surface of the work, creating quasi-mechanical palimpsests of richly layered color. As Richter crucially pointed out, “Above all, it’s never blind chance: it’s a chance that’s always planned, but also always surprising. And I need it in order to carry on, in order to eradicate my mistakes, to destroy what I’ve worked out wrong, to introduce something different and disruptive. I’m often astonished to find how much better chance is than I am.”iii 
     
    One of Richter’s primary artistic concerns over his sixty-year career has been to reconcile the often-incongruous relationship between painting’s ability to represent and man’s capability to perceive. Like the rest of his broad oeuvre, Abstraktes Bild confronts this unhappy marriage with a distinct intellectual ambivalence and a reverent adherence to traditional language of painting. Using an abstract dialect, Richter conceptualizes of painting as Leon Battista Alberti’s finestra aperta, a window offering glimpses into fictive worlds; his canvases offer indistinct and incomplete views into the unassailable truths of reality, articulated in an indecipherable and incomprehensible language. In Richter’s words, they are “fictive models, because they make visible a reality that we can neither see nor describe, but whose existence we can postulate.” iv

     

     

    In all of his experimentations with abstraction, from the early semi-abstract breakthrough Tisch (Table), 1962 to grand, richly textured compositions like Abstraktes Bild, Richter has forged a unique model for the relation of painting to its sources—literal or spiritual—in real-world experience. Rather than solely striving to achieve a traditionally idealized and harmonious composition, Richter uses the pure expression of abstraction to reveal to the viewer the fundamental verities of lived experience, its imprecision, uncertainty, and transience. Passages of vibrant color, the archaeological evidence of underpainting, shine through velvet washes of black, blue, and red that are alternately poured onto and scraped away from the canvas to create thick cloaks of color. Abstrakes Bild expresses the murky inexactness of perception and the grasping inadequacy of representation; its core truths are intimated but never fully revealed.

     


    i Peter Osborne, quoted in Andre Rottman, Gerhard Richter: Painting After All, exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2020, p. 82.
    ii Dietmar Elger, Gerhard Richter: A Life in Painting, Chicago, 2009, p. 251.
    iii Gerhard Richter, quoted in Hans Ulrich Obrist, ed., Gerhard Richter: The Daily Practice of Painting—Writings 1962-1993, London, 1995, p. 159.
    iv Gerhard Richter, quoted in Hans Ulrich Obrist and Dietmar Elger, eds., Gerhard Richter: Text, Writings, Interviews, and Letters 1961–2007, London, 2009, p. 121.

    • Provenance

      Wako Works of Art, Tokyo
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Tokyo, Wako Works of Art, Gerhard Richter: Painting, November 10 – December 19, 2015, p. 64 (illustrated, p. 65; installation view illustrated, p. 15)

    • Literature

      Gerhard Richter. Painting 1992-2017, exh. cat., Wako Works of Art, Tokyo 2017, p. 135 (illustrated)

    • 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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26

Abstraktes Bild (940-2)

signed, inscribed and dated "940-2 Richter 2015" on the reverse
oil on canvas
46 1/8 x 37 7/8 in. (117 x 96.2 cm)
Painted in 2015.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
$4,500,000 - 5,500,000 

Sold for $5,112,000

Contact Specialist

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

[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 23 June 2021