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PROPERTY OF A DISTINGUISHED NEW YORK COLLECTOR

Gerhard Richter
SPLIT (RUBBLE)
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3,500,0004,500,000
LOT SOLD. 3,871,250 GBP
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20

PROPERTY OF A DISTINGUISHED NEW YORK COLLECTOR

Gerhard Richter
SPLIT (RUBBLE)
Estimate
Irrevocable Bids
Lots with this symbol indicate that a party has provided Sotheby’s with an irrevocable bid on the lot that will be executed during the sale at a value that ensures that the lot will sell. The irrevocable bidder, who may bid in excess of the irrevocable bid, will be compensated based on the final hammer price in the event he or she is not the successful bidder or may receive a fixed fee in the event he or she is the successful bidder. If the irrevocable bidder is the successful bidder, the fixed fee (if applicable) for providing the irrevocable bid may be netted against the irrevocable bidder’s obligation to pay the full purchase price for the lot and the purchase price reported for the lot shall be net of such fixed fee. If the irrevocable bid is not secured until after the printing of the auction catalogue, a pre-lot announcement will be made indicating that there is an irrevocable bid on the lot. If the irrevocable bidder is advising anyone with respect to the lot, Sotheby’s requires the irrevocable bidder to disclose his or her financial interest in the lot. If an agent is advising you or bidding on your behalf with respect to a lot identified as being subject to an irrevocable bid, you should request that the agent disclose whether or not he or she has a financial interest in the lot.
Artist's Resale Right
Purchase of lots marked with this symbol will be subject to the payment of the artist's resale right.
Double Dagger
Indicates that the lot is being sold whilst subject to Temporary Importation, and that VAT is due at the reduced rate
Guaranteed Property
Guaranteed Property. The seller of lots with this symbol has been guaranteed a minimum price from one auction or a series of auctions. If every lot in a catalogue is guaranteed, the Conditions of Sale will so state and this symbol will not be used for each lot.
3,500,0004,500,000
LOT SOLD. 3,871,250 GBP
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Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

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London

Gerhard Richter
B. 1932
SPLIT (RUBBLE)
signed, dated 1989 and numbered 685-2 on the reverse
oil on canvas
112.4 by 102 cm. 44 1/4 by 40 1/8 in.
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Provenance

Sperone Westwater Gallery, New York

Private Collection (acquired from the above in 1990)

Sotheby’s, New York, 13 November 2012, Lot 34 (consigned by the above)

Acquired from the above by the present owner

Exhibited

Rotterdam, Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Gerhard Richter 1988-89, October - December 1989, n.p., illustrated in colour 

New York, Sperone Westwater Gallery, Gerhard Richter: New Paintings, February 1990

Literature

Exh. Cat., Bonn, Kunst-und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Gerhard Richter, Vol. III, 1993, n.p., no. 685-2, illustrated in colour

Dietmar Elger, Ed., Gerhard Richter: Catalogue Raisonné 1988-1994, Vol. IV, Ostfildern 2015, p. 199, no. 685-2, illustrated in colour

Catalogue Note

Gerhard Richter’s Split epitomises the extraordinary negotiation between photography, representation, and abstraction that positions the Abstrakte Bilder among the most significant contributions to the history of twentieth-century painting. Sumptuous impasto passages of viscous oil paint here cover and reveal magnificent sediments of intense chromatic strata; an effect that undoubtedly conjures a reading of natural phenomena.

As an artist who has relentlessly scrutinised the potential of representation in paint within our photographic age, Richter’s complex and deeply conceptual practice often loops back to art history’s rich past. In a conversation with Benjamin Buchloh in 1986, Richter stated as much: “I do see myself as the heir to a vast, great, rich culture of painting – of art in general – which we have lost, but which places obligations on us. And it is no easy matter to avoid either harking back to the past or (equally bad) giving up altogether and sliding into decadence” (Gerhard Richter in conversation with Benjamin H. D. Buchloh (1986) in: Hans Ulrich Obrist, Ed., Gerhard Richter: The Daily Practice of Painting, London 1995, p. 148). Often Richter would exhibit works from the Abstrakte Bilder alongside photo-realistic (yet typically blurred) landscape paintings to underline this point. The push and pull dynamic between these works – i.e. the evocation of figuration in the abstract paintings and the dissolution into abstraction of the photo-paintings – underscores the transgressive potential for slippage in the painted image. Thus Richter has sought to renew both abstraction and figuration in paint, not despite of, but because of photography. His work could thus be described as having pioneered a kind of post-photographic painterly practice.

Marking the culmination of an inquiry that started in the early 1960s with black and white photo-realistic works on canvas, the Abstrakte Bilder herald the way in which Richter has been able to produce “photography by other means” (Gerhard Richter in conversation with Rolf Schön (1972) in: Dietmar Elger and Hans Ulrich Obrist, Eds., Gerhard Richter, TEXT: Writings, Interviews and Letters: 1961-2007, London 2009, p. 73). As redolent in Split, endless permutations of colour possess the sheen of a cibachrome print, while a distinctly photographic quality is compounded by the out of focus consistency of sweeping paint accretions. Evoking a blurred image and imploring the same searching cognitive viewing experience as his photo works, the hazy coagulation of endlessly scraped pigment forms an extraordinary riposte to the canon of twentieth-century abstraction via the photographic, mechanical, and the aleatory. Within the sheer excess of layering and dynamic compositional facture these paintings emit an extraordinary wealth of enigmatic yet recognisable evocation. Aside from the gestural abandon of Abstract Expressionism, the incessant erasure and denial of compositional resolution also induces a reading of forms associated with those found in nature. Readily conjuring an experience of the natural world, such as that of rain, ice, or being in a forest, the abstract works derive their affect from a spontaneous naturalism. Where Richter’s Photo Paintings fall away into abstraction, the Abstrakte Bilder return us to a suggestion of representation.

The painting’s title, Split underlines this referential association. In German the word ‘split’ is reminiscent of naturally occurring debris from a rockfall: the painting’s slick cascade of white pigment thus conjures avalanches or melting snowscapes atop vast mountain ranges. However, when considering the date of this painting’s execution, the word ‘split’ takes on a secondary meaning; indeed, the English translation of the word – ‘rubble’ – further underlines this association. Created in the months prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall on 9th November 1989, Split resonates with socio-cultural import. The tumbling weight and downwards drag of slick oil paint seems to anticipate and foreshadow this historical event. At once replete with gravitational painterly pull and socio-political timeliness, Richter’s painting cannot help but announce the end of the Cold War era.

Richter has long flirted with the political dimension inherent within much of his work. From the early black and white painting of his Uncle Rudi dressed proudly in an SS uniform during the Second World War (Onkle Rudi, 1965), through to the Stadtbilder and their implication of bomb ravaged cities (1968-70), Richter has often courted a reading that confronts the challenge of German identity in the post-war era. Indeed, where his mountain ranges or seascapes ostensibly appear as a saccharine rejuvenation of German Romanticism – specifically in relation to the legacy of Caspar David Friedrich – Mark Godfrey has argued that they instead underline the chasm that has opened up between Germany’s lost past and its post-war present by offering “indirect reflections on history and nationalism” (Mark Godfrey, ‘Damaged Landscapes’ in: Exh. Cat., London, Tate Modern (and travelling), Gerhard Richter: Panorama, 2011-12, p. 79). Unlike Friedrich's landscapes, which were championed by some Nazis as a precursor for National Socialist art, Richter’s offer no redemption, no resolution, and no promise land beyond the horizon line; instead they are disorientating and impenetrable, sparse and lonely (Ibid.). Split thus belongs to this profound subset of Richter’s oeuvre in which secondary layers of meaning impart deeper political resonance; a body of challenging and important work that includes Richter’s momentous series of paintings after the Baader Meinhoff Group, October 18, 1977 housed in the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Richter’s abstract paintings undoubtedly sign-post the furthest most point in an artistic inquiry that spans over fifty years. Having deconstructed, recapitulated, and revitalised the full gamut of art history in paint – starting with the early Photo-Paintings, into the conceptual Grey Paintings and Colour Charts, through the ‘romantic’ landscapes and into the blown up brush strokes – the Abstrakte Bilder posit a resounding philosophical and visual equilibrium between the natural and the mechanical, and as in the present work, the abstract and the political. At their best, these stunning works impart nothing less than immersive, boundless, and utterly spectacular, aesthetic encounters.

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

|
London