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    "I’ve always been fascinated by abstraction. It’s so mysterious, like an unknown land."
    —Gerhard Richter

     

     

    Painted in 1988, Weiß (White) is a lavish exemplar of Gerhard Richter’s meditative engagement with abstraction within his acclaimed painterly practice. Belonging to his canonical Abstraktes Bild series, the present work ebbs and flows through a lushness of white, set against sharp tones of black and grey as subtle pops of pinks, blues, and greens glimmer from underneath the surface, resulting in a shimmering passage of painterly scintillation across the canvas. The colors undulate through the surface with the variance of each layer of paint, exuding an iridescent atmospheric quality through its chromatic life force and textual richness. The present work stands at the crossroads of the artist’s early all-over investigations that characterized the 1980s and the more controlled chance of his single-pull squeegee technique of the early 1990s that marked the mature apex of his celebrated abstract visions. Marking this critical juncture in Richter’s oeuvre, Weiß (White) magnificently delivers the artist’s glimpse of “scenarios, surroundings or landscapes that don’t exist…somewhere you can’t go, something you can’t touch.”i

     

     

     

    J.M.W. Turner, Snow Storm: Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth, 1842. Tate Gallery, London, Image: © Tate, London / Art Resource, NY

    J.M.W. Turner, Snow Storm: Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth, 1842. Tate Gallery, London, Image: © Tate, London / Art Resource, NY

     

     

    Widely regarded as a significant contribution to the tradition of painting, Richter’s innovative squeegee technique invites chance to his artistic process, allowing the medium to spontaneously guide his creations as the pigment shifts and spreads under the pressure of contact. He expressed, “With a brush you have control. The paint goes on the brush and you make the mark. From experience you know exactly what will happen. With the squeegee you lose control. Not all control, but some control.”ii The serendipitous effect of the artist’s idiosyncratic process partially removes the artist’s hand from each composition as he pushes the viscous loads of paint across the work’s surface, creating quasi-mechanical palimpsests of richly layered color. “Above all, it’s never blind chance: it’s a chance that’s always planned, but also always surprising,” Richter explained. “I’m often astonished to find how much better chance is than I am.”iii

     

     

     

    Gerhard Richter, Snowscape (Blurred), 1966. Private Collection, Image and Artwork: © Gerhard Richter 2021 (0215)

    Gerhard Richter, Snowscape (Blurred), 1966. Private Collection, Image and Artwork: © Gerhard Richter 2021 (0215)

     

     

    "In the case of the abstractions, I get vague notions of pictures that are just asking to be painted. That’s how it starts, but nearly always the result is not at all what
    I imagined."
    —Gerhard Richter

     

     

    In his notes from 1974, Richter wrote, “In order to represent all shades of colour that occur in one picture I developed a system that—starting on the basis of the three primary colours and grey—proceed in stages that were always equal and made possible an ever-increasing degree in differentiation.”iv Here, the intimation of a prism revealing hints of yellow, chartreuse green, red and russet brown trickles just below the layered cloaks of white, black, and grey in mesmerizing abandon. Richter’s rhythm of painting gives way to an inherent movement in this lush composition, one that at once suggests the gentle ripples of water and the haze of a snowstorm.

     

     

     

    Mark Rothko, Untitled, 1969. Collection Christopher Rothko, Image: Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

    Mark Rothko, Untitled, 1969. Collection Christopher Rothko, Image: Art Resource, NY, Artwork: 1998 © Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

     

     

    From his early color and Old Master-inspired paintings to his later portraits and the still ongoing Abstraktes Bild series, Richter’s key concern throughout the vast oeuvre of his 60-year career has lied in reconciling representation in painting and perception of the mind’s eye. For Richter, figuration and abstraction derive from the same set of guiding principles. “The Abstract Pictures are no less arbitrary than all object-bound representations (based on any old motif, which is supposed to turn into a picture),” he explained. “The only difference is that in these the ‘motif’ evolves only during the process of painting.”v Rising to the surface only through the process of the work’s creation, the alluded subject matter in Weiß (White) refracts color and perception in its symbiotic interplay between darkness and light, absence and presence, ultimately capturing Richter’s famous conviction: “Painting is the making of an analogy for something nonvisual and incomprehensible: giving it form and bringing it within reach.”vi

     

     

     

     

     


    i Gerhard Richter, quoted in Gerhard Richter: Panorama, exh. cat., Tate, London, 2011, p. 19.
    ii Ibid., p. 27.
    iii Gerhard Richter, quoted in Hans Ulrich Obrist, ed., Gerhard Richter: The Daily Practice of Paintings. Writings and Interviews 1962-1993, London, 1995, p. 159.
    iv Gerhard Richter, quoted in “Gerhard Richter: Notes 1966-1990”, in Gerhard Richter, exh. cat., Tate, London, 1991, p. 111.
    v Gerhard Richter, quoted in Hans-Ulrich Obrist, ed., Gerhard Richter: The Daily Practice of Paintings. Writings and Interviews 1962-1993, London, 1995, p. 123.
    vi Ibid., p. 99.

    • Provenance

      Marian Goodman Gallery, New York
      Private Collection, Florida
      Phillips, London, October 16, 2013, lot 10
      Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Rotterdam, Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Gerhard Richter 1988/89, October 15 – December 3, 1989, n.p. (illustrated, n.p.)
      New York, Marian Goodman Gallery, Gerhard Richter: New Paintings, February 2-24, 1990

    • Literature

      Gerhard Richter: Werkubersicht / Catalogue Raisonné 1962 – 1993, vol. III, exh. cat., Kunst und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Bonn, 1993, no. 685-1, p. 186 (illustrated, n.p.)
      Dietmar Elger, ed., Gerhard Richter: Catalogue Raisonné 1988-1994, vol. 4 (Nos. 652-1 – 805-6), Ostfildern, 2015, no. 685-1, p. 196 (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. 

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Property of a Distinguished Private Collector

Ο ◆29

Weiß (White)

signed, inscribed and dated "685-1 Richter 1988" on the reverse
oil on canvas
44 1/8 x 40 1/8 in. (112.1 x 101.9 cm)
Painted in 1988.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
$4,000,000 - 6,000,000 

Sold for $5,717,000

Contact Specialist

Amanda Lo Iacono
New York Head of Department & Head of Auctions
+1 212 940 1278
[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 17 November 2021