Contemporary Art

Richter's Masterclass in Abstraction

By Constanze Nogler

Gerhard Richter’s Wind is a symphony of colour, executed in 1982 at the height of the artist's career spanning six decades, and will be offered in the upcoming Contemporary Art Evening Auction on 7 March. The painting was purchased only one year after its creation by a private collector and remained entirely hidden from the public for more than thirty-five years. Today, the masterpiece finally makes a triumphant return to the art market.

GERHARD RICHTER, WIND, 1982. ESTIMATE: 2,500,000—3,500,000.

Wind stands out from Richter’s oeuvre due to its striking ability to harmonise vivid hues with varied textures to offer viewers an aesthetically pleasing yet structurally complex result. Unlike the majority of Richter’s world-renowned and critically acclaimed abstract paintings from the 1980s, this work possesses a specific title, an element which inevitably shapes and influences the interpretations that can be formulated from an attentive observation of the piece. 

As explained by the artist himself: "We only find paintings interesting because we always search for something that looks familiar to us. I see something and in my head I compare it and try to find out what it relates to. And usually we do find those similarities and name them… When we don’t find anything, we are frustrated and that keeps us excited and interested" (Gerhard Richter in conversation with Robert Storr, in: Exh. Cat., New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Gerhard Richter: Forty Years of Painting, 2002, p. 304).

GERHARD RICHTER, WIND, 1982 (DETAIL). ESTIMATE: 2,500,000—3,500,000.

Wind marks an important evolution in Richter’s career as it was produced right when the artist shifted his attention from the precision of photorealism to the elusiveness of abstraction. Indeed, the painter devoted two decades of his life to the execution of uncannily realistic paintings based off of black-and-white photographs. It is only during the 1980s that he indulged in his rising interest in the aesthetic potential of abstraction – an appetence that led him to produce ground-breaking abstract compositions, insolently pushing the limits of art history’s abstract canon.



This development in Richter’s career came at an unusual time in the art historical landscape. Indeed, art critics of the 1980s were almost entirely subjugated by the emergence of Pop art and Minimalism, while Richter did not partake in these genres, preferring the realism of figuration originally and the imprecision of abstraction subsequently. However, it is precisely the artist’s stubborn refusal to conform to the dominant genres of the time that led him to carve a specific aesthetic identity for himself. Indeed, his style is in no way indebted to that of his contemporaries, an element which allows Wind to possess nothing else but the very essence of Richter’s creative genius.

After three decades off the market and out of the sight for the public, Gerhard Richter’s Wind will finally grace viewers with its vibrant mélange of colours and textures in the upcoming Contemporary Art Evening Auction at Sotheby's London.


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