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Gerhard Richter
ABSTRAKTES BILD
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4,000,0006,000,000
LOT SOLD. 4,856,900 USD
JUMP TO LOT
37
Gerhard Richter
ABSTRAKTES BILD
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.
4,000,0006,000,000
LOT SOLD. 4,856,900 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

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New York

Gerhard Richter
B.1932
ABSTRAKTES BILD
signed, dated 1977 and numbered 420 on the reverse
oil on canvas
88 7/8 by 78 3/4 in. 225.7 by 200 cm.
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Provenance

The artist
Galerie Konrad Fischer, Düsseldorf
Private Collection, Cologne
Hirschl & Adler Modern, New York (acquired from the above circa 1988)
Private Collection, England (acquired from the above in 1989)
Matthew Marks Gallery, New York
Acquired by the present owner from the above in 2000

Exhibited

New York, Sperone Westwater Fischer Gallery, Gerhard Richter: New Paintings, January - February 1978
Eindhoven, Stedelijk van Abbemuseum; and London, Whitechapel Art Gallery, Gerhard Richter: Abstract Paintings, October 1978 - April 1979, p. 29, illustrated in color 
Sydney, The Art Gallery of New South Wales, European Dialogue: The Third Biennale of Sydney, April - May 1979, p. 12, illustrated (in installation) and p. 60 (text) 
Düsseldorf, Stadtisches Kunsthalle; Berlin, Neue Nationalgalerie; Bern, Kunsthalle Bern; and Vienna, Museum moderner Kunst, Gerhard Richter: Bilder 1962-1985, January - September 1986, p. 205, no. 420, illustrated
Dallas, Dallas Museum of Art, Fast Forward: Contemporary Collections for the Dallas Museum of Art, November 2006 - May 2007, p. 200, illustrated in color
London, Tate Modern; and Berlin, Neue Nationalgalerie, Gerhard Richter: Panorama, October 2011 - September 2012, p. 87 (text) and p. 140, illustrated in color 

Literature

Jürgen Hohmeyer, Einfach ein Bild, in DER SPIEGEL, January 4, 1986, p. 165, illustrated in color
Exh. Cat., Bonn, Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (and travelling), Gerhard Richter. Werkübersicht / Catalogue Raisonné 1962-1993, Vol. III, 1993, p. 96, no. 420, illustrated in color  
Gerhard Richter. Rot/Gelb/Blau. Die Gemälde für BMW, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus und Kunstbau, Munich, 2007, p. 99, illustrated in color 
Mark Godfrey, "Blurring Boundaries," in Apollo, October 2011, p. 54, illustrated in color 
Dietmar Elger, Gerhard Richter: Catalogue Raisonné 1976-1987, Volume 3, Ostfildern, 2013, p. 97, no. 420, illustrated in color

Catalogue Note

"I first paint the pictures very precisely from the photograph, sometimes more realistically than the originals. That comes with experience. And the result is, of course, an unendurable picture from every point of view." (The artist in conversation with Jan Thorn Prikker, 1989, in Hans-Ulrich Obrist, Ed., Gerhard Richter: The Daily Practice of Painting: Writings and Interviews 1962-1993, London, 1993, p. 189)

Among the very first of Gerhard Richter's Abstrakte Bilder, the resplendent Abstraktes Bild from 1977 is an exhilarating testament to the artist’s career-long negotiation of the relationship between representation and abstraction. One of four canvases executed in 1977 after a photograph of the artist's first Abstraktes Bild, the present work also illustrates Richter’s ceaseless investigation into obligations and unreliability of the mediums of photography and painting. The three sister canvases in this series reside in the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York, and a distinguished corporate collection. Abstraktes Bild is a pristinely rendered painting of a painting, expertly executed in the modern vocabulary of photorealism.

Abstract though it is, the present work is an appropriation and indeed a representation of a different Abstraktes Bild, painted the year prior. In the source painting, Richter applied thick brushstrokes of violet and white pigment across a dynamic, vibrant and colorful abstract composition. The juxtaposition of assertive and meticulously executed brushstrokes seemingly sitting ‘on top of’ the hazy background of color negates the illusion of space and depth and draws attention to the nature of the medium of painting, a reflexivity that characterizes the very best of Richter’s output. Following the execution of this expressive oil on canvas, Richter used a camera to take snapshots of various details, zooming in on particular passages and capturing various detail photographs of the painting. The present work represents a detail of the 1976 Abstraktes Bild, in which Richter focuses closely in on the upper left hand corner of his original painting. Richter’s source image reveals the actual path the brush took across the canvas, each bristle and the accidental blending of white and purple paint clearly articulated in an effort to draw attention to the medium. In the present work, however, Richter breaks down this insistence, instead using thinly veiled washes of pigment to build up a nearly obscured image, as if viewed through frosted glass; the brushstrokes so precisely defined in the 1976 work fuse into one another in a sublimely illusionistic swath of colors. Abstraktes Bild showcases Richter at one of the many peaks of artistic genius within his decades-long career; here, we see an artist who, through his deft handling of paint, achieves an immaculate composition that is both visually stunning and intellectually demanding - a decidedly postmodern, self-reflective take on the gestures of abstraction. Bars of white and dark purple abut one another in a technically challenging blur across a diaphanous wash of color: a bright red cherry bar running the length of the painting, light pink blending into green, bleeding into yellow and orange.  

Since the mid-1960s, Richter has been assembling and arranging photographs, sketches, newspaper clippings, and ephemera onto loose leaf paper into an enormous compendium titled Atlas. Comprising a range of pictures, from a banal photograph of a toilet roll to landscape pictures and personal family photographs, this visual treatise offers significant insight into Richter’s artistic process and his approach to creating imagery. For its complexity, Atlas is considered to be an independent artwork, adding yet another layer into the evolution of the present work. Indeed, sheet 405 of Atlas presents photographs the artist captured of his 1976 Abstraktes Bild, illustrating details of the painting. From these photographs catalogued in Atlas, Richter created the present work, inserting it into an intricate and complex dialogue regarding the precarious position painting occupies in this narrative. The present work sprung from a photograph that exists in a separate artwork and represents an original painting, an ancestry that underscores the self-consciousness and skepticism of Richter’s career: “I don’t believe in the absolute picture. There can only be approximations, experiments and beginnings, over and over again.” (The artist cited in Hans Ulrich Obrist, Ed., Gerhard Richter: The Daily Practice of Painting, London, 1995, p. 199)

Richter’s brilliance as a painter and prowess as a philosopher are on full display in Abstraktes Bild; his finesse with paint recalls the sublimity of Mark Rothko, whose translucent colors radiate incandescently from the surfaces of his canvases. The intellectual exploration into the authenticity of a work of art is part of a larger narrative whose champions included figures such as René Magritte and Jasper Johns. Within Richter’s oeuvre, Abstraktes Bild also reflects the tension between the two most prolific aesthetic modes of the artist’s oeuvre: photography and painting. As both photographer and painter, Richter challenges the authenticity and reliability of each, the elaborate puzzle and tension between which is elegantly unraveled in the present work.

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

|
New York