Contemporary Art

Surface Tension: Rare Richter Comes to Market

By Sotheby's

G erhard Richter's Eisberg will play a central role in the Contemporary Art Evening Auction at Sotheby's in London in March, coming to auction for the first time. This rare canvas was produced shortly after Richter's divorce from his first wife, and pays a stylistic homage to 19th Century German Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich, whose atmospheric landscapes were meditations on light and the natural world. In Friedrich's famous work, The Sea of Ice (1824) the lone stricken ship HMS Griper is engulfed by ice – seconds away from disappearing altogether on the Northwest Passage.


Eisberg is one of three paintings that Richter made of the arctic seascapes, which depict an icy stillness that appears to mirror the artist's reflective mood at this transitional period of his life, with slight ripples in the surface the only suggestion of movement. A second iteration of this work, Eisberg im Nebel (1982), is currently in the collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and Eis (1981) sold at Sotheby's London in February 2012 for £4.3million. 

"The project was…an excuse for getting away... Trouble in my marriage was reaching a climax. Going into the ice could be interpreted as longing for a place where one feels safe – just so long as there is no life, only ice."

– Gerhard Richter


Although fascinated by landscapes throughout his career, Richter produced relatively few of them in comparison to his other investigations in to colour, portraiture and abstraction. Richter has long used photography as a tool in his practice, and a trip to Greenland in 1972 provided him with the rich source material for this autobiographical series.  The upcoming Contemporary Art Evening Auction marks a hugely significant moment when this emotionally charged, ethereal masterpiece is offered at auction for the first time.

Richter's Eisberg has undertaken a tour of several German cities in the lead-up to the exhibition and sale in March. The work went on display this week in Munich, Cologne, Hamburg and Frankfurt, allowing German collectors to view this remarkable work in person. 


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