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PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED PRIVATE COLLECTION

Gerhard Richter
A B, TOWER
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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.
3,000,0004,000,000
LOT SOLD. 3,840,800 USD
JUMP TO LOT
62

PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED PRIVATE COLLECTION

Gerhard Richter
A B, TOWER
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.
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.
3,000,0004,000,000
LOT SOLD. 3,840,800 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

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New York

Gerhard Richter
B.1932
A B, TOWER
signed, dated 1987 and numbered 647-4 on the reverse
oil on canvas
55 1/8 by 39 1/4 in. 140 by 99.7 cm.
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Provenance

Anthony d'Offay Gallery, London
Acquired by the present owner from the above in 1988

Exhibited

London, Anthony d'Offay Gallery, Gerhard Richter. The London Paintings, March - April 1988, n.p., no. 13, illustrated (as Tower 6)

Literature

Exh. Cat., Bonn, Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (and travelling), Gerhard Richter. Werkübersicht / Catalogue Raisonné 1962-1993, Vol. III, 1993, n.p., no. 647-4, illustrated in color
Exh. Cat., London, Tate Modern (and travelling), Gerhard Richter. Panorama, 2011, p. 136 (text) (London and Berlin) and p. 134 (text) (Paris)
Dietmar Elger, Gerhard Richter. Catalogue Raisonné 1976-1987, Vol. 3 (nos. 389 - 651-2), Ostfildern, 2013, p. 621, no. 647-4, illustrated in color

Catalogue Note

“The titles Richter has given this group of fourteen abstract paintings are not descriptive; they refer in a general associative way to his experiences of the city – to the chapels in Westminster Abbey, to the Tower of London.”

Jill Lloyd, "Gerhard Richter: The London Paintings" in Exh. Cat., London, Anthony d’Offay Gallery, Gerhard Richter: The London Paintings, 1988, n.p.

 

Conjuring a captivating vista of shimmering chromatic light and electrifying color, Gerhard Richter’s exquisite A B, Tower stands as a paragon of the aesthetic, conceptual, and profoundly referential capacities of abstract painting. Belonging to the group of abstract paintings created for Richter’s 1988 show The London Paintings at Anthony d’Offay Gallery—his first major commercial exhibition in London—A B, Tower exemplifies the artist’s revered corpus of early Abstrakte Bilder. Acquired by the present owner directly from d’Offay in 1988, A B, Tower has remained in the same collection since the year after its debut in the The London Paintings. Indefatigably tied to their host city, the London Paintings reference a direct geographic connection in alluding to the central district in the City of Westminster; each of the extant thirteen works in this ground-breaking series is named after the various towers of the Tower of London and the chapels of Westminster Abbey, providing a sense of place that roots the abstract handling of paint in the real world. Testament to the remarkable caliber of this series, a number of these paintings now reside in prestigious museum collections across the globe: The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; Tate, London; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and La Caixa Foundation, Barcelona. A near transcendent fusion of sublime abstraction and exquisite specificity, A B Tower supremely embodies the fine line between objective distance and subjective expression that is the defining conceptual inquiry of Richter’s inimitable oeuvre.

Conjuring a mixture of evocations that complexly negotiate the ecclesiastical and cultural references inherent to its namesake, A B, Tower is the radical heir to an illustrious art historical legacy. Famous precedents include Paul Delaroche’s iconic painting of The Execution of Lady Jane Grey of 1833, J.M.W. Turner’s spectacular renderings of the infamous 1841 fire at the Tower of London, and, of course, the sublimely atmospheric views of Monet’s Houses of Parliament, amongst innumerable others. Describing his relationship to art history in the year preceding the execution of the present work, Richter remarked: “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.” (The artist cited in: Hans Ulrich Obrist, Ed., Gerhard Richter: The Daily Practice of Painting, London, 1995, p. 148) Confronting a subject immortalized within these art historical canons – from landscape to history painting – A B, Tower invokes the stately dignity and profound import of such venerated precedents, while simultaneously entirely eschewing objective representation altogether. Indeed, far from performing a narrative function, these names operate within an intensely imaginative dimension rooted in Richter’s experience and anticipation of his London exhibition. In the catalogue essay for The London Paintings, Jill Lloyd describes: “The rich and spectacular appearance of the new abstract work…is the result of this complex balancing act of process, that extends over a period of time and is broken by periods of inactivity and consideration, when Richter physically and emotionally steps back from the compelling presence of his work.” (Jill Lloyd in Exh. Cat., London, Anthony d'Offay Gallery, Gerhard Richter: The London Paintings, 1988, n.p.) As outlined by the artist: “The paintings gain their life from our desire to recognize something in them. At every point they suggest similarities with real appearances, which then, however, never really materialize.” (The artist cited in Dietmar Elger, Gerhard Richter: A Life in Painting, Chicago, 2009, p. 267) Possessing an atmospheric power connected to famous British architectural monuments and affecting a viewing experience that evokes the shimmering Impressionism of Monet, A B, Tower sublimely registers beyond our sphere of cognition to deliver a rich poetic riposte to the sights and sounds of historic London.

Though entirely disconnected from referentiality in both method and conception, the London Paintings nevertheless elusively evoke natural forms and color configurations. From beneath strident kaleidoscopic veils of fiery scarlet, verdant green, and sumptuous orange, a shimmering underlayer of silvery pigment conjures the effects of photographic exposure, a quality compounded by the out-of-focus consistency in the sweeping accretions of paint. Achieved through Richter’s unrivaled mastery of his preferred painterly tool – the squeegee – the layered excavation and resonant accumulation of gossamer color imparts an eroded surface reminiscent of myriad natural forms. Like a sunset, glorious and luminescent in reflecting the chromatic intensity of stunning optical effects, Richter’s canvas evokes the beauty frequently called forth by the contingency of natural phenomena: “amid the paintings’ scraped and layered pigments” describes Robert Storr, “shoals, riptides and cresting waves” reinforce an impression of venturing beyond abstraction (Robert Storr cited in Ibid., p. XIII). Such a reading is very much linked to Richter’s methodological dialogue with chance. Dragged across an expanse of canvas, the pressure and speed of Richter’s application ultimately surrenders to the unpredictability of chance in informing composition and color. It is this separation of the artist from direct expression that bestows Richter’s paintings, and most notably the London Paintings, with their inherently natural look. The shimmering and harmoniously artful orchestration of paint within A B, Tower vacillates between an act of intense evocation and a simultaneous effacement of painterly form: ingrained within the present work’s destructive and unpredictable formation is an undeniable reflection of nature itself.

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

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New York