Gerhard Richter - Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, November 15, 2012 | Phillips
  • Video

    GERHARD RICHTER Kegel (Cone), 1985

    Phillips former Chairman, Simon de Pury, presents Gerhard Richter's 'Kegel (Cone)', 1985. Oscillating between figurative, constructive and abstract designations, Richter returns to and builds upon his own archive of creative production, continually referring to and assembling techniques with heightened awareness. This intellectually rigorous method of practice is what imbues a physical and emotive layer to each of his works. 'Kegel (Cone),' 1985, is one of the most vibrant and luminous expressions of Richter's power and evidences its creator's title as master painter of the late Twentieth Century.

  • Provenance

    Galerie Fred Jahn, Munich
    David Nolan, New York, New York
    Private Collection

  • Exhibited

    Los Angeles, The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), The Image of Abstraction, July 10 – October 9, 1988

  • Literature

    D. Elger, Gerhard Richter; Bilder - Paintings 1962 – 1985, Köln, 1986, cat. no. 580-2, p.335, 401 (illustrated)
    K. Brougher, The Image of Abstraction, Los Angeles: Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 1988 , p. 35
    B.H.D. Buchloh, P. Gidal, B. Pelzer, Gerhard Richter, vol III, 1962-1993, Edition Cantz, 1993, cat. no. 580-2 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Recognized as one of the preeminent painters of all time, Gerhard Richter’s artistic evolution throughout the decades has produced mesmerizing, evocative, and poetic works that culminate into a complete– and visually complex– oeuvre, contributing to art history in immeasurable ways. Oscillating between figurative, constructive and abstract designations, Richter returns to and builds upon his own archive of creative production, continually referring to and assembling techniques with heightened awareness. This intellectually rigorous method of practice is what imbues a physical and emotive layer to each of his works. The present lot, Kegel (Cone), 1985, is one ofthe most vibrant and luminous expressions of Richter’s power and evidences its creator’s title as master painter of the late Twentieth Century.

    The exuberant primary hues radiating from the surface of Kegel (Cone),1985, converge and crash into one another like tempestuous waves; they appear powerful enough to extend up towards celestial greatness before receding back into cool depths of grey, dark blue and emerald green. Here, Richter reveals a liminal space between depth and surface with each sweeping gesture of his brush stroke. As though in tandem, white and black lines of paint strike across the top of the canvas before fading into an isolated abyss. Emerging from these white and black lines, yellow brushstrokes appear to cascade diagonally down the canvas in graceful synchrony. A plummeting wave of blue pigment submerges the leftmost portion of the canvas in a sea of royal blues. The cerulean ribbons writhe across the expansive canvas, twirling and weaving among each other with iridescent radiance. Amidst Richter’s use of colors, a pulling effect transpires between form and abstraction, the textured trace of brushstrokes and the smooth wiping of paint.

    This tension is further heightened by the dynamic palette which blankets the canvas; the sapphire pigments, which occupy the left portion of the canvas, seem to challenge the scarlet strokes on the right. The left portion is contained and calm, while the crimson strokes climb with vitality towards the center of the canvas, threatening to engulf the entirety of the space with its hot flames. Out of this quarrel, a beaming golden curtain billows between the two chromatic adversaries. Ribbons of canary yellow float along the central seam; stretching their long arms out and over the canvas, the writhing ribbons imbue the entirety with brilliance and radiance. The layers of colors atop one another appear almost translucent, allowing their forbearers to emerge as if to show the foundations of the composition.

    Richter’s paintings function as windowed layers of color, each window subtly announcing its presence while the viewer peers through the enlivened colors that lay just beyond– mise en abyme. “With abstract painting we created for ourselves a better possibility of approaching what is nonvisual and incomprehensible, because it portrays “nothing” directly visually, with all the means available to art. Used to recognizing something real in pictures, we rightly refuse to regard only colour (in all its multiplicity) as what has been made visible and instead involve ourselves in seeing the nonvisual, that which hitherto had never been seen and that is not visible…Thus paintings are all the better, the more beautiful, intelligent, crazy and extreme, the more clearly perceptible and the less decipherable metaphors they are for this incomprehensible reality. Art is the highest form of hope.” (Gerhard Richter, in exhibition catalogue, Documenta 7, 1982, p.119).

    Kegel (Cone), executed in 1985, was created as Richter was preparing for his first large scale retrospective exhibition for the Kunsthalle in Düsseldorf. The vivacity of the present lot captures the excitement and nervousness of its creator in the time leading up to what would be the most important exhibition of his life. The year of 1985 was also a rare time in which Richter was simultaneously producing landscapes and abstracts; Kegel (Cone), 1985, embodies a balance of the mystery of the abstracts with the formal composition of a landscape painting. The very clearly defined fields—the blues, reds, greens, and yellows—adhere to the format and palette of a conventional landscape; the blues function as crashing waves, the greens a thick and ambrosial forest, and the yellows the earth. Richter was also awarded the Oskar Kokoschka Prize in that same pivotal year.

    Other major titled works from 1985 include Gestell (Rack), Billard, and Pyramide. Like the present lot Gestell (Rack), 1985, implements a similar primary palette and formal composition. The right side is very clearly occupied by a powerful scarlet reign, while the left side is marked by heavy and thick applications of greens. The same yellow ribbons twist, fold, and entwine themselves diagonally across the plane, breaking the composition up into equal, yet contending parts. Kegel (Cone), 1985, while comprised of similar sections, is a more dynamic and intense picture. The reds in Gestell (Rack), 1985, are contained and obedient, while here they are vigorous and intense as they climb across the surface, challenging any boundary or limitation. The yellow ribbons, while serving similar functions, appear not only greater in number in Kegel (Cone), 1985, but they actually wisp and wind with intensified luster and flexibility. The present lot emerges as a more unpredictable and youthful variant.

    Alternating from the strictures imposed by representations of the physical environment to the formal freedom of the abstracts, Richter visualizes a reality that is self-evident and without precedent; a singular vision that he has labeled a “fictive model.” Yet the use of primary colors—red, yellow, and blue—as well as the compositional structure of Kegel (Cone), 1985, adheres to the traditional format of landscape painting. Calling upon his forbearer, the German Expressionist painter Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Richter’s composition serves as homage to the foundation of Expressionism in Twentieth Century art. Through the vibrant palette, as well as the gestural strokes, one can clearly see Kirchner’s legacy in the surface of Kegel (Cone), 1985. The soft blues wash across the surface of the painting, blending the steeple of the church with the night sky above. Rosy mountains, rendered in soft blush pigments, rise from the ground and mirror the pointed shape of the steeple. A yellow road is rendered in the lower right quadrant, which seems to cascade with canary pigments, and lead the viewer down the path and into a sleeping hamlet.

    Richter imbues his abstracts with multiple dimensionalities, developing illusionistic space through additive and reductive means. This battle assembles at the beginning of a composition; the multifaceted surface of the abstracts is created through the layering of paint, applied and then scraped away until it reaches a surface of Richter’s pleasing. Thick viscous pigments are flung onto the canvas and then manipulated with a squeegee, which blends the various textures and pigments into a compressed shroud of paint. Utilizing the full range of painter’s tools, Richter brushes, scrapes, and smears his pigments across the surface, in a charismatic and masterful performance. The strokes blur, part, and converge again as they are wiped across the surface with a rigorous force. Of course, Richter’s process is one that relies heavily on chance, which is known to frustrate the artist in the process of creation. The practice is such that one does not know the outcome until the squeegee is lifted from
    the canvas to reveal the effect. Each step is contingent upon the next.

    In describing his relationship with chance, Richter says, “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).

    The fearlessness with which Richter performs his painterly experiment is a testament to his skill and innovation as a colorist. The palette in Kegel (Cone), 1985, exudes the power and dynamism of one of Rothko’s most famed paintings. Beyond the implementation of a primary palette, Rothko’s No. 6 Violet, Green and Red, 1951, explores the versatility and plasticity of color. The crimson tones in the lower register pulsate feverously as it flirts with its tangerine frame. The central register—rendered in moss green— breathes with a vivacious strength as it occupies the smallest section, but exudes great regality. The upper register is drenched in a sea of blue with swells and surges within in its domain. A blue ribbon gives way to the darker horizon above, which sits above the picture like an overlord.

    It is the brimming under-painting of red, evident beneath the veil of blue that infuses the work with its most compelling life. It is this same cloak of pigment that renders Kegel (Cone), 1985, so breathtaking. By exposing the painting’s earlier foundations, Richter elicits a sense of the act of creation itself; the act of painting is transformed before our eyes. In this way, while Rothko’s No. 6 Violet, Green and Red, 1951, is meant to evoke the sublime, Richter’s Kegel (Cone), 1985, distinguishes itself through the unveiling of the tacit process of contemplation and action, locating the painting within that moment.

    Though Gerhard Richter achieves each abstract picture through a uniquely restrained process, the harmony of the present lot glows with mesmerizing abandon. Hints of lucid green and garnet red poke through a layered veil of canary yellow, that is both delicate in its translucence and powerful in its masking of the canvas. The kaleidoscopic surface both reveals and conceals a myriad of layers, colors, and illusions. The liquid surface of the canvas, applied in waves of viscous pigment, betrays a view of a pristine sea, spotted with withering rays from the setting sun. Richter’s rhythm of painting on the canvas gives way to inherent movement in the picture, one that suggests a vigorous undulation of seascapes.

    Kegel (Cone), 1985, conjures a sense of speed and momentum in both its color and form. While they are equally brilliant, Richter’s subsequent Abstraktes Bilds are layered in heavier blankets, concealing the actual strokes of the brush. Kegel (Cone), 1985, however, seems to applaud and celebrate the actual action of painting, highlighting the various incarnations behind each band of color. Though many would conclude that Richter is in a class of his own, one cannot help but become nostalgic at his Abstract Expressionist roots when gazing at the surface of the canvas. Indeed, the strokes are so bold that they seem to leap off the canvas in every direction, refusing to obey the limitations and dimensions of the canvas. The white curve in the upper left portion at first appears random and out of place, however, its organic circular shape highlights
    its humanity.

    Richter’s practice is a grand game of chance that he has likened to chess. He has commented that the painting is complete when he enters the studio and says “checkmate” to the work. Kegel (Cone), 1985, emerges as one of the most important paintings from Richter’s most pivotal year. As one absorbs the resplendent surface of the present lot, overflowing and swelling dynamism, the overwhelming sense that this painting is a masterpiece is commensurate with Richter’s role as the grand master of
    modern painting. Kegel (Cone), 1985, is passion, fervor, and life.

  • 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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Kegel (Cone)

oil on canvas
102 3/8 x 78 3/4 in. (260 x 200.5 cm)
Signed and dated “Richter 1985”on the reverse.

$12,000,000 - 18,000,000 

Sold for $12,402,500

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

15 November 2012
New York