Gerhard Richter - Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Tuesday, October 14, 2014 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist
    Fred Jahn, Munich
    Private Collection, Germany
    Anthony Meier Fine Art, San Francisco
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    The present lot, comprising of six works on paper from Gerhard Richter’s Silicate series, highlights the artist’s exploratory approach to painting. The genesis of the series began on 26 July, 2000, when the artist read an article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung detailing the invention of a new technology that would enable scientists to study our world on an atomic level. An accompanying photo was captioned 'First Look into the Inside of an Atom' (Erster Blick in das Innere eines Atoms). This so-called 'scanning tunnelling' microscope has the ability to reveal structures invisible to the naked eye. Unlike ordinary microscopes that simply magnify existing images, this device generates a fictive 'picture' of the atomic structure using numerical strings of data. The first image created from the microscope, produced alongside the newspaper article, is rich with irony; the computer-generated facsimile is unexpectedly poetic in its haziness. Rather than elucidating our complex universe into understandable structures, it reveals the erratic nature of existence. Commemorating this irony, Richter produced a limited edition print of the news clipping, aptly titling it First Look.

    Three years after First Look, the same newspaper published an article on 12 March, 2003 with the captivating headline ‘A colorless coat for shimmering colors,’ that chronicled laboratory attempts to recreate silicate, a substance that produces the unique sheen found in insects’ exoskeletons also illustrating silicate film. This substance, rather than containing pigment, refracts the colours under it; it is practically invisible. The silicate material in many ways mirrors Richter’s own artistic practice, which uses a squeegee to obscure the meticulously painted photo-realistic images underneath. Like the silicate, which enhances the sub-pigments lying under it, the squeegee transforms the imagery on the painting surface. Richter preserved the original newspaper clipping in Atlas, which is the artist’s personal collection of photographs, clippings and sketches that acts as a kind of scrapbook, documenting his artistic development and output over decades. The resulting Silicate cycle of paintings produced in the early 2000s reproduces this crystalline structure while adding Richter’s signature 'touch,' blurring it in a manner similar to his figurative works, ‘the computer-generated representation of the silicate structure appears as bundles of three dark, cell-like ovals embedded in a honeycomb lattice. The cells are distributed evenly across the picture, but because they are hand painted, they are not identical. They vary in light value and are slightly blurred. In keeping with Heisenberg’s uncertainly principle, they elude precise placement in the image space.’ (D. Elger, Gerhard Richter: A Life in Painting, University of Chicago Press, 2010, p. 348)

    Combining science fiction with artistic fiction, Richter’s oeuvre is testimony to the limits of science, exploring painting’s ability to reveal the unseen more clearly than cutting-edge technology. The present lot, made up of six works on paper, develops from the artist’s earlier work, in which the artist squeegeed over his virtuoso copies of photographs executed in oil paint. These earlier paintings explore modes of visual fiction, attempting to simultaneously transform and unravel the power of the mechanically produced image. In the Silicate series, Richter examines the artifice of visual 'science fiction': the computer-generated image of the substance’s molecular structure.

    Speaking about this series, Richter further describes his process: the molecular structures 'are painted in, as mechanically as possible, and further painted over until all the brushstrokes have been painted away, and everything becomes as blurred as the microscopic photo and similarly mysterious looking' (Interview with Benjamin Buchloh in Gerhard Richter: Paintings from 2003-2005, p. 60). Although admitting that 'I don’t even know what kind of substance the [original] illustration is supposed to depict' (Buchloh interview, p. 59), Richter painstakingly translates the photograph of the silicate structure to paper six times in this series, blowing up the original pattern of the compound, paralleling the lens of the microscope. Following Walter Benjamin’s conception that aura is lost in the transference of image through mechanical reproduction, Richter becomes an alchemist, re-injecting aura to this static molecular pattern. The gauzy veil he creates using his signature squeegee invigorates the forms, bringing them into motion. The present lot is not simply an examination of scientific artifice, but a celebration of the sublime nature of our world.

  • 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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Silikat Studien (11-16 Juni 03)

oil on paper, in six parts
each 60 x 84 cm (23 5/8 x 33 1/8 in.)
(i) Signed, titled and dated '16 Juni 03 Richter' lower left.
(ii) Signed, titled and dated '15 Juni 03 Richter' lower left.
(iii) Signed, titled and dated '13 Juni 03 Richter' upper right.
(iv) Signed, titled and dated '14 Juni 03 Richter' lower left.
(v) Signed, titled and dated '12 Juni 2003 Richter' upper left.
(vi) Signed, titled and dated '11 Juni 03 Richter' lower right.

£300,000 - 500,000 ‡ ♠

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
+44 207 318 4063

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 15 October 2014 7pm