Gerhard Richter - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Wednesday, October 2, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Video

    Gerhard Richter, 'Abstraktes Bild', Lot 12

    20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 2 October 2019

  • Provenance

    Wako Works of Art, Tokyo
    Private Collection, Aachen
    Private Collection, London
    Haunch of Venison, London
    Schönewald Fine Arts, Xanten / Antony Meier Fine Arts, San Francisco
    Galerie Terminus, Munich
    Dieter Graalfs, Berlin
    Acquired from the above by the present owner in November 2015

  • Exhibited

    Tokyo, Wako Works of Art, Gerhard Richter: 10th Anniversary 2002, 12 December 2002 - 31 January 2003, p. 20 (illustrated, p. 21)
    Munich, Galerie Terminus, Made in Germany, 13 May - 31 July 2009
    Seoul, Michael Schultz Gallery, Gerhard Richter: Abstract Spirit, 21 September - 23 October 2011
    Munich, Galerie Terminus, first choice / master pieces, 4 July - 15 September 2012
    Berlin, Galerie Michael Schultz, Abstract Illusion, 16 April - 4 May 2014
    Salzburg, Rudolf Budja Galerie, Tony Cragg/Gerhard Richter/Andjé, 19 March - 19 May 2016
    Augsburg, Galerie Noah, Gerhard Richter. With Paintings, Enamels, Photo Paintings, Prints and Editions from six decades, 29 July - 6 November 2016
    Weilburg, Rosenhang Museum, Encounter in Weilburg: Figure and Abstraction in Dialogue. Stephan Balkenhol and Gerhard Richter, 3 June - 31 August 2017

  • Literature

    Gerhard Richter, exh. cat., K20 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, 2005, no. 871-9, p. 317 (illustrated, p. 290)

  • Catalogue Essay

    In Abstraktes Bild, 2001, flecks and layers of mauve, cerulean and cherry red cascade down the jewel-sized canvas, forming a mesmeric landscape of subtly intertwined hues. Relinquishing the paintbrush in favour of a squeegee, Richter has created an image that owes its appearance to serendipitous amalgamations and chance formations, falling within his prodigious and celebrated series of Abstract Paintings, which he began painting in 1977. First experimenting with the diverse patterns and mixtures enabled by the tool’s rubber surface – which, ultimately, lay beyond the artist’s control – Richter subsequently chooses the resulting image he is satisfied with, following hours and days of re-working. When speaking of process for his Abstraktes Bilder, Richter has explained that he alters his abstract paintings ‘much more often than the representational ones. They often turn out completely different to what I’d planned’ (Gerhard Richter, quoted in ‘I Have Nothing to Say and I'm Saying it: Conversation between Gerhard Richter and Nicholas Serota’, Gerhard Richter. A Panorama, London, 2011, p. 17). In Abstraktes Bild, the striations of paint seem to have kept their deliquescent form, presenting the viewer with a composition that is essentially in movement.

    Adopting the squeegee as a signature tool in the mid-1980s, Richter became fascinated – almost obsessed – with the idea of exploiting the hidden possibilities of colour, in an approach that neared archaeological exploration through processes of excavation and lamination. As a result, he would rub and scrape the paint that he had applied in large bands across the canvases to build shimmering, gem-like compositions. ‘For about a year now, I have been unable to do anything in my painting but scrape off, pile on and then remove again’, the artist wrote. ‘It would be something of a symbolic trick: bringing to light the lost, buried pictures, or something to that effect’ (Gerhard Richter, quoted in ‘Notes 1992’, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Gerhard Richter: The Daily Practice of Painting, London, 1995, p. 245). With this technique, Richter would masterfully blend the various pigments he employed with one another, and spread the painterly collisions across the surface to convey explosive kaleidoscopic swathes. Blurring one area of colour into another, his Abstract Paintings make the viewer feel like they are looking at an out of focus image that lies beyond decipherment. In Abstraktes Bild, Richter has run the squeegee repeatedly over the picture plane to produce the final tableau of accepted colour iterations, materialised in a predominantly mauve and gray composition.

    Furthermore, the scraping and streaking of paint in Abstraktes Bild produces an effect reminiscent of a photographic blur; in this respect, the work confirms Richter’s continued engagement with photographic imagery, which he had begun with a series of photorealist works commenced in 1961. Here, the gray black spots tumbling down the surface in the upper left quadrant of the composition are reminiscent of the planes feverishly shooting past the viewer in Richter’s Bomber, painted in 1963 and today residing in the Städtische Galerie Wolfsburg. With their combed brushwork and pictorially elusive understatement, Richter’s photorealist paintings presaged the abstract turn Richter would take nearly two decades later with his new tool of predilection.

    An exquisite and opulently textured painting, Abstraktes Bild demonstrates Richter’s talent in conveying poetry and magnificence through abstraction. ‘With abstract painting we create a better means of approaching what can be neither seen nor understood’, Richter once claimed (Gerhard Richter, quoted in Ronald Nasgaard, ‘Gerhard Richter’, Gerhard Richter: Paintings, exh. cat., Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 1988, p. 107). With its majestic tides traversing the surface of the canvas, Abstraktes Bild is a sumptuous example of Richter’s formulation of the ineffable.

  • 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 '871-9 Richter 2001' on the reverse
oil on Alu Dibond
50 x 72 cm (19 5/8 x 28 3/8 in.)
Painted in 2001.

£500,000 - 700,000 

Sold for £495,000

Contact Specialist

Olivia Thornton
Senior Director
Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Europe
+44 20 7318 4099


Rosanna Widén
Director, Senior Specialist
+44 20 7318 4060

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 2 October 2019