Gerhard Richter - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale London Friday, March 4, 2022 | Phillips

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  • 'Now that there are no priests or philosophers left, artists are the most important people in the world.'
    —Gerhard Richter

    Painted in 1992, just one year after the artist’s breakthrough retrospective at the Tate Modern, London— Abstraktes Bild 754-2 represents the crescendo of Gerhard Richter’s career, matched perhaps only by such masters as Claude Monet, Jackson Pollock or Willem de Kooning. Named by Jerry Saltz as ‘the most purely optical post-war artist since Dan Flavin, and one of the greatest painters alive,’i Richter is known for his inimitably diverse body of works, which evidences a life-long philosophical enquiry into the processes of cognition. Culminating in a series of painted abstractions that began in 1976 and continued to evolve over the course of three decades, Richter’s critical reflection on the painterly practice has been a pioneering force in the development of contemporary visual art and art historical analysis. In 1986, Richter fully abandoned the use of the paintbrush in favour of the squeegee—a ‘painterly philosopher’s stone’, according to Saltz, which ‘use[s] the smudge … to ravish the eye, [creating] works of psychic and physical power.’ii It is precisely the squeegee technique that is responsible for the soothing effect of the work’s blurred background.

    Abstraktes Bild 754-2 perfectly exemplifies Richter’s famously experimental approach to colour and technique, challenging the boundaries between figuration and abstraction. A philosophical reflection on visual perception, the work delivers an enchanting balance between illusion and allusion, the seen and the imagined. In a review of the 2001 Marian Goodman Gallery show in New York where Abstraktes Bild was first exhibited, Roberta Smith draws our attention to Richter’s ‘signature all-over horizontal blur, much in evidence [in the work], blending intent and accident and creating a sheen bravura, although this time the blur tends to be a silvery, penitential greyiii mixed with a spectrum of deep and diaphanous greens. Reminiscent of a dream-like hinterland, Abstraktes Bild transports the viewer into an otherworldly space of glimmering skies and dark horizons, of bright dust and fog. The powerful sense of melancholia emanating from the canvas is intensified by the mystery of its subject, which feels both strangely familiar and seductively ominous.

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

    Interviewing the artist for Gagosian Quarterly, Hans Ulrich Obrist remarked that ‘as the title implies, there are no clear representational elements depicted in the painting, but within its thick layers of colour … there is a suggestion of an original image which has become blurred.’ It is precisely this search for a likeness in an image that might inspire one to look at Abstraktes Bild 754-2 and find forest landscapes—invited by the vertical brown strokes at the centre of the canvas—or be reminded of large expanses of open nature. Richter explained: ‘the eye always searches for “something” in abstract paintings, some similarity with real objects—that’s what creates the effect of abstract paintings. That’s why we can understand them … We want to see what they offer us, whether they threaten us or whether they’re nice to us, or whatever it might be.’


    Throughout the course of his career, Richter’s ‘Abstract Paintings’ have attracted serious interest from many prestigious collections—Abstraktes Bild 780-1, 1992, and 809-3, 1994, for instance, were acquired by the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. and the joint collection of Tate Modern and the National Galleries of Scotland, respectively. At the moment, Richter’s related works can be viewed at Museum Ludwig’s ‘Collection presentation for Gerhard Richter’s 90th birthday’ in Cologne, as well as the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen’s ‘Gerhard Richter. Portraits, Glass, Abstractions’ exhibition in Dresden, both on view until the 1st May, 2022.


    Gerhard Richter demonstrates his innovative use of the squeegee in his recent abstract paintings.

    i Jerry Saltz, ‘Richter’s Earthquake,’ New York Magazine, 20 November 2009, online
    ii Roberta Smith, ‘ART IN REVIEW: Gerhard Richter’, The New York Times, October 5, 2001, online
    iii Roberta Smith, ‘ART IN REVIEW: Gerhard Richter’, The New York Times, October 5, 2001, online
    iv Gerhard Richter, quoted in Hans Ulrich Obrist, Interview, Gagosian Quarterly, Spring 2021, online

    v Gerhard Richter, quoted in Hans Ulrich Obrist, Interview, Gagosian Quarterly, Spring 2021, online

    • Provenance

      Marian Goodman Gallery, New York
      Private Collection, United States
      Christie’s, New York, 9 November 2005, lot 353
      Private Collection, Berlin
      Villa Grisebach Auktionen, Berlin, 8 June 2007, lot 95
      Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

    • Literature

      Bonn, Kunst-und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Gerhard Richter: Catalogue Raisonné 1962-1993, Vol. III, exh. cat., Ostfildern-Ruit, 1993, no. 754-2, 193 (illustrated, n.p.)
      Dietmar Elger, ed., Gerhard Richter: Catalogue Raisonné, 1988-1994, Vol. 4, Ostfildern, 2015, no. 754-2, p. 424 (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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Abstraktes Bild

signed, numbered and dated '754-2 Richter 1992' on the reverse
oil on canvas
52 x 62 cm (20 1/2 x 24 3/8 in.)
Painted in 1992.

Full Cataloguing

£200,000 - 300,000 ‡ ♠

Sold for £352,800

Contact Specialist

Simon Tovey

Specialist, Associate Director, Head of Day Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art
+44 20 7318 4084

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

London Auction 4 March 2022