From The Steven A. Cohen Collection

New York

New York - Christie’s is honored to present Prag 1883, one of Gerhard Richter’s earliest abstract masterpieces, as the highlight of the fall season in New York. Painted in the break-through year of 1983, when Richter first began to explore his dazzling abstraction on a monumental scale, the work celebrates the centenary and birthplace of famed author Franz Kafka. Estimated $9-12 million, Prag 1883 is coming from the prestigious collection of Steven A. Cohen, one of the world's leading collectors of modern and contemporary art.

Few of Richter’s large-scale Abstraktes Bild paintings can match the majesty of Prag 1883—the chromatic intensity, innovative nature of its execution and the completeness and balance of its composition remain unrivalled within the artist’s extensive abstract oeuvre. “Richter is certainly the greatest abstract painter working today and Prag 1883 contains the genesis of all his ideas on abstraction,” says Brett Gorvy, Chairman and International Head of Post-War and Contemporary Art.With this picture, Richter shows himself to be the rightful heir to an abstract tradition that includes Kandinsky, Rothko and de Kooning. The market for such a rare and historic masterpiece is probably our most global and we anticipate museums and private collectors to strongly compete to own this.” 

Epic in scale and in appearance, Prag 1883 demonstrates an incredible confidence and ambition on the part of the artist. It was executed at a time when there was a universal return to painting amongst artists, after a period in art history when expressive painting had been largely discredited. Richter consciously delights in the conflicts between darkness and light, figuration and abstraction, destruction and creation. This struggle plays out in the swirling colors and forms that articulate so much of the surface of Prag 1883. Richter applied his brilliant colors at times with vivid brushstrokes, at other times with firm squeegees, all over a soft, almost photographic background.

Richter rarely titled his abstract paintings and Prag 1883 is a reference to the birthplace and birth date of Franz Kafka, a hero to the artist. Richter had first included a portrait of Kafka in the early 1970s, as part of forty-eight black and white portraits of famous composers, writers and other illustrious male figures for the German Pavilion in the 1972 Venice Biennale.

Prag 1883 has a prestigious provenance. It was once part of the esteemed collection of the Duke of Bavaria, Franz Bonaventura Adalbert Maria von Wittelsbachas. The work was on loan at the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich, before it was acquired by Steve A. Cohen.


London: 6-11 October 2012

New York: 10-13 November 2012


Post-War and Contemporary Art, Evening Sale: 14 November 2012

About Christie’s

Christie’s, the world's leading art business, had global auction, private and digital sales in first half of 2017 that totalled £2.35 billion / $3 billion. Christie’s is a name and place that speaks of extraordinary art, unparalleled service and expertise, as well as international glamour. Christie’s offers around 350 auctions annually in over 80 categories, including all areas of fine and decorative arts, jewellery, photographs, collectibles, wine, and more. Prices range from $200 to over $100 million. Christie's also has a long and successful history conducting private sales for its clients in all categories, with emphasis on Post-War & Contemporary, Impressionist & Modern, Old Masters and Jewellery.

Alongside regular sales online, Christie’s has a global presence in 46 countries, with 10 salerooms around the world including in London, New York, Paris, Geneva, Milan, Amsterdam, Dubai, Zürich, Hong Kong, and Shanghai.

*Please note when quoting estimates above that other fees will apply in addition to the hammer price - see Section D of the Conditions of Sale at the back of the sale catalogue.

*Estimates do not include buyer’s premium. Sales totals are hammer price plus buyer’s premium and are reported net of applicable fees.