Gerhard Richter (German, born 1932) Abstraktes Bild (Untitled) 679-3 1988

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Lot 17
Gerhard Richter
(German, born 1932)
Abstraktes Bild (Untitled) 679-3

US$ 1,500,000 - 2,500,000
£ 1,100,000 - 1,800,000
Gerhard Richter (German, born 1932)
Abstraktes Bild (Untitled) 679-3

signed and dated 1988 on the reverse
oil on canvas

47 1/4 by 39 1/4 in.
119.3 by 99.5 cm.


  • Provenance
    Marian Goodman Gallery, New York
    Private Collection, Malibu
    Acquired directly from the above by the present owner

    Suzanne Pagé, Wenzel Jacob, Björn Springfield, Kasper König, Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, Gerhard Richter. Werkübersicht / Catalogue raisonné 1962-1993, Bonn 1993, vol. 3, no. 679-3, n.p., illustrated in color
    Dietmar Elger, Gerhard Richter. Catalogue Raisonné 1988-1994, vol. 4 (nos. 652-1 – 805-6), Ostfildern 2015, no. 679-3, p. 180, illustrated in color

    Over the past six decades, Gerhard Richter has emerged as one of Germany's most important Post-War painters and one of the most esteemed international artists alive. Richter's astonishingly diverse practice, which has spanned photography to Photorealism to Abstract Expressionism, underscores his resolute commitment to painting. The present work, coming to auction for the first time from private hands, is an exceptional example from the artist's iconic Abstraktes Bild series, created at the pinnacle of the artist's celebrated abstract practice.

    Born in Dresden in 1932 during the rise of the Third Reich, the wake of the war proved traumatic for Richter, with rigorous ideology and death haunting him since childhood. It was perhaps this upbringing that led to his strong dislike for ideology of any kind and underpinned his attraction to nature. Richter's artistic education began in 1951 when he was accepted to the Dresden Art Academy. After his move in 1961 to Düsseldorf in West Germany, he co-founded a German variant of Pop Art which he termed Capitalist Realism.

    During this period, the artist introduced his hallmark 'blur' in photo-paintings, in which he would project a photograph onto a canvas, and obscure the image through various methods including squeegee, or light touches of paint or glue. He would choose from a wide range of sources, including personal photographs of family and friends, images of public figures taken from newspapers, journals, and books, or snapshots he took himself. The squeegee would become one of Richter's most important tools, blurring the relationship between the artist's mind, eye and hand. "It is a good technique for switching off thinking", Richter explained. "Consciously, I can't calculate the result. But subconsciously, I can sense it. This is a nice "between" state" (the artist quoted in Stefan Koldehoff, 'Gerhard Richter, Die Macht der Malerei', in Art. Das Kunstmagazin, December 1999, p. 20).

    Beginning in the late 1960s, Richter redirected his attention to abstraction, and by the early 1980s, he embarked upon an unprecedented exploration into a new frontier of abstraction, channeling his formidable talent into a vibrant series of canvases that reached new heights of innovation. The Abstraktes Bild (Abstract Paintings), the series from which the present work belongs, are created not only via relatively common painterly techniques such as troweling, scraping, and brushing, but the artist also incorporates his signature squeegee technique, in which he applies and re-applies layers of paint, dragging them across the canvas to produce shimmering planes of color. Richter has remained highly experimental and innovative in his technical approach to artistic production, utilizing unconventional tools and methods beyond the squeegee, and introducing new experimental media such as glass and digital works up until the present day.

    Writing in the year that the present work was created, Roald Nasgaard explained that 'Richter will begin a new group of paintings by placing a number of primed canvases around the walls of his studio, eventually working on several or all of them at the same time, like a chess player simultaneously playing several boards. He begins by applying a soft ground of red, yellow, blue or green...but then it must be altered, with a new move, a first form; a large brush stroke, a track of color drawn out with a squeegee, a geometric shape. Step by step the painting changes in appearance, sometimes sharply, with each new accretion, and goes through several states...they are finished "when there is no more I can do to them, when they exceed me, or they have something that I can no longer keep up with"' (Roald Nasgaard, 'The Abstract Paintings' in Terry Neff Ed., Gerhard Richter: Paintings, London 1988, p. 108).

    Painted during the peak years of the artist's celebrated abstract practice of the late 1980s, Abstraktes Bild (Untitled) 679-3 (1988), embodies the artist's constant obsession with, and interrogation of, order and chaos, its composition delicately poised between the two. Here the artist employs a relatively reduced color palette, dominated by rich, earthy yellows and greens that glow against the dark gray that dominates the vertical axis and upper edge of the canvas. The artist's process is visible in the thick, horizontal swathes across the surface, revealing interspersed linear fissures and flashes of brilliant pops of cyan and white layered below. Sublime washes of yellow paint blur passages of red into orange, teal into green and black into charcoal. A fiery red erupts in the lower right of the canvas, adding a dramatic pop to the rigidity and buoyancy of the horizontal drags of paint, creating a truly captivating visual experience. Across this dazzling array of color, Richter pulls his squeegee, creating bright, staccato accretions that celebrate and reveal the work's creative genesis.

    The linear structure of the artist's strokes visibly reflects the inherent repetition of the process, yet the extremely broad brush of Richter's squeegee introduces elements of chance. There are various factors in and out of the artist's control that effect the ultimate outcome of the painting-- the amount of paint on the surface, the level of pressure applied onto the squeegee and the arbitrary patterns that each new coat of paint creates as it envelops the layer beneath it. "I'm more concerned now to have [my paintings] evolve of their own accord', Richter claimed. 'I don't work at random but in a more planned way, in the sense that I let a thing happen by chance, then correct it, and so on. The actual work consists in taking what appears, looking at it then deciding whether it's acceptable or not" (the artist quoted in Dietmar Elger and Hans Ulrich Obrist Eds., Gerhard Richter – Text. Writings, Interviews and Letters 1961-2007, London 2009, p. 275).

    Throughout his long career, perhaps most unusual is Richter's ability to move regularly from one style and technique to another, and then back again, every so often revisiting Photorealism and stretching his repertoire by experimenting in sculpture and installation. For while most other artists begin with one style which gradually develops into another (many, such as Wassily Kandinsky and Jackson Pollock beginning in the relative safety of figurative art before entering the more liberating world of abstraction), Richter has continued to exist within many styles contemporaneously, with incredible success across them all.

    In addition to his artistic production, Richter has also taught throughout most of his career, at the Art Academy of Dusseldorf, the University of Fine Arts of Hamburg, and the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. In 1988, the year the present work was created, Richter was given his first North American retrospective organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto and The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. His work has been the subject of touring retrospectives at the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf; the Tate Gallery, London; the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, among many others.
Gerhard Richter (German, born 1932) Abstraktes Bild (Untitled) 679-3 1988
Gerhard Richter (German, born 1932) Abstraktes Bild (Untitled) 679-3 1988
Gerhard Richter (German, born 1932) Abstraktes Bild (Untitled) 679-3 1988
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