Gerhard Richter - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, November 15, 2018 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Studio of the Artist
    Dieter Giesing, Hamburg
    Galerie Fred Jahn, Munich
    Schönewald Fine Arts, Dusseldorf/Anthony Meier Fine Arts, San Francisco
    Galerie Andreas Binder, Munich
    Private Collection (acquired from the above in 2005)
    Sotheby's, London, October 16, 2009, lot 155
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Literature

    Gerhard Richter: Werkübersicht/Catalogue raisonné 1962-1993, vol. III, Bonn, 1993, no. 714-1, p. 188 (illustrated, n.p.)
    Dietmar Elger, Gerhard Richter. Catalogue Raisonné, vol. 4 (1988-1994), Ostfildern, 2015, no. 714-1, p. 286 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Painted from the finest period of Richter’s abstractions to date, Abstraktes Bild (714-1), 1990, is a formidable example of the formal complexity the artist achieved with his mature Abstrakte Bilder. Demonstrating the mastery of his squeegee technique, a brilliant spectrum of color emerges from darkness– flashes of red, yellow, blue and green burst forth like molten lava erupting from inky depths. Exemplary of the rigor in which he has pursued his abstractions since the late 1970s to the present day, Abstraktes Bild highlights the significance of the genre within Richter’s oeuvre, which was most recently explored in the acclaimed exhibition Abstraktion at the Museum Barberini, Potsdam and in a major career retrospective to be held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York in 2020.

    The period that immediately preceded the conception of Abstraktes Bild was a transformational chapter in Richter’s oeuvre and his global reception. In 1989, his exhibition October 18, 1977, travelled from Germany to several important international institutions, including the Institute of Contemporary Art, London, and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Indeed Dietmar Elgar has observed in this regard, “His Abstract Paintings from around 1990 achieved a painterly density and seriousness that seems to echo the melancholy atmosphere of the Oktober Cycle” (Dietmar Elger, ed., Gerhard Richter, Catalogue Raisonné, vol. 4, Ostfildern, 2015, p. 22). Abstraktes Bild was created in the seminal moment in the artist’s career that would preempt a period of unprecedented international recognition in the following years, with his 1991 retrospective at the Tate Gallery, London, his inclusion in the Documenta IX in 1992, and his momentous, touring retrospective Gerhard Richter: Malerei 1962-1993.

    Abstraktes Bild celebrates an artist at his prime, one who confidently pushed his pictorial innovations from the past decades into ever astonishing heights. The squeegee technique he pioneered in the 1980s essentially saw him return to the inception of his first investigations into abstraction. In (Tisch) Table, 1962, he explored the relationship between figuration and abstraction by cancelling out the photorealistic image with haptic swirls of paint. The Abstrakte Bilder Richter later created are ostensibly informed by this dual interest in figuration and abstraction, with the artist conceiving both figurative and abstract work in tandem. This becomes particularly apparent with his work in 1990: in fact, one may consider Passage (Leipzig), 1990, denoted with the catalogue raisonné number 714, as the starting point for his Abstract Paintings 714-1 to 714-4. The color palette for this cycle of four abstracts would seem to have much in common with that of the preceding figurative work, based on a discrete grouping of photographs selected by the artist for his Atlas. “Almost all the abstract paintings show scenarios, surroundings and landscapes that don't exist,” Richter has noted, “but they create the impression that they could exist. As though they were photographs of scenarios and regions that had never yet been seen” (Gerhard Richter, quoted in Gerhard Richter: Panorama, exh. cat., Tate, London, 2011, p. 19).

    This engagement with both abstraction and figuration reflects the interrelationship of what Dietmar Elger has described as simply “two sides of the same coin” (Dietmar Elger, Abstraktion, exh. cat., Museum Barberini, Potsdam, 2018, p. 23). Indeed, Richter considers both figurative and abstract paintings as equal analogies for the reality surrounding us: “When I look out of the window, then truth for me is the way nature shows itself in its various tones, colors and proportions” (Gerhard Richter, quoted in Dietmar Elger, ed., Gerhard Richter, Catalogue Raisonné, vol. 4, Ostfildern, 2015, p. 23). Looking at Abstraktes Bild equally gives rise to the sensation of looking into the abyss of an otherworldly, half-seen or remembered out of focus image. As such, it vividly conveys Richter’s notion of reality as a simulation – an investigation that would notably usher in the development of his discrete Mirror series, which tellingly debuted alongside the Abstrakte Bilder.

    It is through the semi-mechanistic blending of color in works such as the present one that Richter achieves an effect similar to the blurring of his early photo-paintings. Though Richter began employing a hand-made squeegee in the 1980s to pull curtains of paint across the canvas in a process of perpetual addition and subtraction, the technique found its purest articulation between 1989 and 1994. The present work marks the very inflection point in which Richter began using a new tool: equally as important as the squeegee now became the spatula, which he would use to scrape off paint in wide, parallel stripes with rhythmic gestures. Moving away from the varied, all-over compositions of the late 1980s, Richter deliberately lends the paintings a compact, almost architectural structure – his vertical and horizontal strokes imbuing the surface with palpable tension and movement.

    The sense of ease and spontaneity that radiates from the present work belies Richter’s laborious and complex working method. Indeed, this work would have undergone multiple variations whereby Richter would repeatedly apply, erase, remake and obliterate the various paint strata - each addition and effacement introducing new chromatic and textural juxtapositions. Richter’s process has been likened to that of a pendulum, swinging between phases of chance and control until the desired composition is achieved. Richter, who typically arranges multiple blank canvases around his studio and works on them simultaneously, explained, “It takes me longer than some people to recognize their quality, their situation – to realize when they are finished. Finally, one day I enter the room and say ‘checkmate’” (Gerhard Richter, quoted in Michael Kimmelman, "Gerhard Richter: An Artist Beyond Isms", The New York Times, January 27, 2002).

  • 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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Property of a Distinguished New York Collector


Abstraktes Bild (714-1)

signed, numbered and dated "714-1 Richter 1990" on the reverse
oil on canvas
27 1/8 x 33 1/8 in. (69 x 84 cm.)
Painted in 1990.

$1,800,000 - 2,500,000 

Sold for $2,295,000

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

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 15 November 2018