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

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  • Provenance

    Galerie Konrad Fischer, Düsseldorf
    Galerie Löhrl, Mönchengladbach
    Collection Lühl
    Galerie Löhrl, Mönchengladbach
    Private Collection
    Galerie Löhrl, Mönchengladbach
    Private Collection, Switzerland
    Private Collection, Germany
    Acquired from the above by the present owner on 30 June 2016

  • Exhibited

    Kunsthalle Bielefeld; Mannheim, Mannheimer Kunstverein, Gerhard Richter. Abstrakte Bilder 1976 bis 1981, 10 January - 16 May 1982
    Zurich, Galerie Konrad Fischer, Gerhard Richter, 9 October - 6 November 1982
    Southampton, The Elks Lodge Fairgrounds, Inaugural Art Southampton, 27 - 30 July 2012
    Augsburg, Galerie Noah, Gerhard Richter. Mit Ölbildern, Lackarbeiten, Fotobildern, Drucken und Editionen aus sechs Jahrzehnten, 29 July - 6 November 2016
    Wellburg/Lahn, Rosenhang Museum, Weilburger Begegnung: Figur und Abstraktion im Dialog. Stephan Balkenhol und Gerhard Richter, 5 June - 31 August 2017

  • Literature

    Gerhard Richter. Bilder / Paintings 1962 - 1985, exh. cat., Städtische Kunsthalle Düsseldorf; Nationalgalerie Berlin; Kunsthalle Bern; Museum moderner Kunst, Vienna, 1986, no. 475/4, pp. 247 and 394 (illustrated, p. 247)
    Deutschland, Gerhard Richter. Werkübersicht / Catalogue Raisonné 1962-1993, vol. III, Bonn, 1993, no. 475-4, n.p. (illustrated)
    Dietmar Elger, ed., Gerhard Richter Catalogue Raisonné Volume 3. Nos. 389 - 651-2. 1976-1987, Ostfildern, 2013, no. 475-4, p. 238 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    'It's never blind chance: it's a chance that is always planned, but also always surprising' – Gerhard Richter

    Abstraktes Bild, 1981, is a visually striking and exceptional example of Richter’s innovative, experimental and masterful painterly process in its infancy. Created in 1981, Abstraktes Bild marks an important evolution in Gerhard Richter’s celebrated career, produced at the moment the artist shifted his attention from figurative Photo Paintings to the infinite possibilities of abstraction. In the same year that the present work was created, Richter’s Photo Paintings from the previous decade were shown in the group exhibition A New Spirit in Painting at the Royal Academy in London. From Pablo Picasso to Andy Warhol, the show brought together the most important painters of the time including works by the Neo-Expressionists, Georg Baselitz and Anselm Kiefer. For Richter, the exhibition pushed him to depart from figurative painting entirely and dive into the aesthetic potential of abstraction – a desire that led him to break the boundaries of art history’s abstract canon. Richter has explained that his early abstract paintings ‘allowed me to do what I had never let myself do: put something down at random. And then, of course, I realised that it never can be random. It was all a way of opening a door for me. If I don't know what's coming – that is, if I have no hard-and-fast image, as I have with a photographic original – then arbitrary choice and chance play an important part’ (Gerhard Richter, quoted in Gerhard Richter: Text, London, 2009, p. 256).

    Typical of Richter’s spectacular early series of Abstrakte Bilder, the present work is more intimate in scale than his later monumental canvases, allowing its viewer to closely examine its extraordinary surface whilst simultaneously absorbing the whole composition. Encapsulating Richter’s early investigations into order and chaos, Abstraktes Bild masterfully balances smooth planes of colour with sumptuously layered areas of impasto. Rich, vibrant colours and seductive textures in the present work stimulate our senses, conjuring our desires through Richter’s forceful yet harmonious strokes of paint. Bright yellow and electric green fields are contrasted with areas of dark grey, appearing as organic outcrops of land meeting the sea, evoking a landscape seen from above. In Richter’s own words, ‘Almost all the abstract paintings show scenarios, surroundings or landscapes that don’t exist, but they create the impression that they could exist. As though they were photographs of scenarios and regions that had never yet been seen, that could never exist’ (Gerhard Richter, quoted in ‘I Have Nothing to Say and I’m Saying It: Conversation Between Gerhard Richter and Nicholas Serota, Spring 2011’ in Mark Godfrey and Nicholas Serota, Gerhard Richter: Panorama, exh. cat., Tate Modern, London, 2011, p. 19).

    Two horizontal green and blue lines slice across the canvas, recalling the gestural strokes of Abstract Expressionist painting. While visually reminiscent of these works, Richter refuses to conform to the sentimental movement that defined Abstract Expressionism. Rather, Richter was able to sculpt a unique aesthetic identity for himself, determined by his trademark tool, the squeegee. A rectangular sheet of Perspex attached to a wooden handle, Richter applies and re-applies layers of paint to the canvas, dragging them across the surface to produce glistening traces of colour. An important innovation for Richter, this technique enabled him to enhance the physical quality of paint whilst renouncing a certain element of artistic control. Asked how chance in his paintings related to the automatism of Jackson Pollock or Surrealism, Richter stated: ‘It certainly is different. Above all, it’s never blind chance: it’s a chance that is always planned, but also always surprising. And I need it in order to carry on, in order to eradicate my mistakes, to destroy what I’ve worked out wrong, to introduce something different and disruptive. I’m often astonished to find how much better chance is than I am' (Gerhard Richter, quoted in Benjamin Buchloch and Hans Ulrich Obrist, eds., Gerhard Richter: The Daily Practice of Painting: Writings and Interviews 1962-1993, London, 1995, p. 159).

    Spontaneous yet confident, instinctive yet deliberate, this intimate work is a sublime example of the miraculous nature of Richter’s early abstractions, dismantling figuration, expression and the authorial voice even as it declares a bold intentionality which would define the rest of his highly celebrated career. Abstraktes Bild showcases Richter’s exceptional skills in technique and abstract composition, confirming Richter’s status as a revered pioneer in the history of Western painting.

  • 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 '475 / 4 Richter, 81' on the reverse
oil on canvas
65 x 80 cm (25 5/8 x 31 1/2 in.)
Painted in 1981.

£300,000 - 400,000 

Sold for £555,000

Contact Specialist

Tamila Kerimova
Director, Specialist
Head of Day Sale
+44 20 7318 4065

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

London Auction 3 October 2019