- Gerhard Richter
- Abstraktes Bild
- oil on canvas
Private Collection (acquired from the above in 1998)
Sotheby's London, 15 February 2011, lot 32
Acquired by the present owner from the above sale
Norway, Oslo, Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Gerhard Richter: Det umuliges kunst - Malerier 1964-1998 / The Art of the Impossible - Paintings 1964 - 1998, 1999, p. 109 (illustrated in colour)
Monika Jenni-Preihs, Gerhard Richter und die Geschichte Deutschlands, Lit Verlag, Vienna/ Berlin, 2013, p. 201
“In Richter’s work there is a demonstration of the ways in which painting’s resources are constantly replenished by the very problems it seems to pose, both for the painter and the viewer. Nobody in our own time has posed them better or solved them more inventively than Richter.”1
Widely regarded as the preeminent living painter of our time, Gerhard Richter is a towering figure who has made profound contributions to the history of contemporary art. After decades of exploring the role of painting in relation to competing visual cultures; film and photography and even painting itself, the emergence of the Abstraktes Bild (Lot 616) stands as the crowning achievement of his oeuvre. Like a river of liquid fire flowing across the canvas, Abstraktes Bild from 1998 is a vibrant work that instantly engages with, and mesmerises its viewer. Utilising a scale that is physically intimate yet impactful, the brilliant hues of red seen here offer a powerful sense of vibrancy. At the same time, Richter’s signature use of the squeegee subtly reveals layers of seductive colour upon closer inspection - the result is a visually arresting and masterfully rendered example of Richter’s revered body of abstract paintings.
Executed during the height of the artist’s maturity in 1998, Abstraktes Bild is a work that exemplifies Richter’s extraordinary odyssey into the realm of abstraction and instigates a profoundly poetic dialect that reifies the phenomenological capacities of painting. Effortlessly drawing strains of ghostly oil pigment across the canvas surface, Richter willingly allows permutations of blended tones and textures to emerge, dictated partly by the laws of chance. As Richter himself says, "I want to end up with a picture that I haven't planned. This method of arbitrary choice, chance, inspiration and destruction may produce a specific type of picture, but it never produces a predetermined picture.”2 As such, the work can be seen as the culmination to the epic journey of Richter’s career, a time when he ceaselessly interrogated the limits of representation, the nature of perception and the operations of visual cognition.
Variously evoking something of Monet’s translation of his garden at Giverny, Rothko’s exuberance of transformative color, Pollock’s instigation of autonomous composition, and de Kooning’s transferal of the figural to the abstract, Richter’s abstraction can be seen as without comparison. In short, as Benjamin H. D. Buchloh notes, Richter's position within the canon of abstraction is one of “incontrovertible centrality.”3
 Glenn D. Lowry quoted in Exh. Cat., New York, Museum of Modern Art, Gerhard Richter: Forty Years of Painting, 2002, p. 7
 Gerhard Richter interviewed in 1990 in Hubertus Butin and Stefan Gronert, Eds., Gerhard Richter. Editions 1965-2004: Catalogue Raisonné, Ostfildern-Ruit, 2004, p. 36
 Benjamin H. D. Buchloh in Exh. Cat., Cologne, Museum Ludwig, Gerhard Richter: Large Abstracts, 2009, p. 9
Gerard Richter (b. 1932, Germany) is widely considered the greatest living painter. His prodigious output has earned unparalleled international acclaim, and over the course of a fifty-year career his work has been honoured with numerous retrospectives by the most prestigious institutions. In the past few years alone there have over seventy major solo exhibitions of Richter’s work held in over twenty countries around the world, from the United States to Japan, Brazil to Switzerland, and Mexico to South Korea. In recent years these have famously included shows at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Tate Modern and the National Portrait Gallery in London, as well as Musée du Louvre and Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, amongst many others.