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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE SWISS COLLECTION


signed, numbered and dated ‘520-3 Richter 1983’ (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
27 3/4 x 19 3/4in. (70.4 x 50.3cm.)
Painted in 1983
Galerie Durand-Dessert, Paris.
Acquired from the above by the late owner in 1984.
Gerhard Richter, exh. cat., Saint-Etienne, Musée d’Art et d’Industrie Saint-Etienne, 1984, p. 41 (illustrated in colour, p. 25).
J. Harten and D. Elger (eds.), Gerhard Richter Bilder, Paintings 1962-1985, exh. cat., Dusseldorf, Städtische Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, 1986, p. 397 (illustrated, p. 279).
Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (ed.), Gerhard Richter, Werkübersicht/Catalogue Raisonné: 1962-1993, volume III, Ostfildern-Ruit 1993, p. 175, no. 520-3 (illustrated in colour, unpaged).
D. Elger, Gerhard Richter – Catalogue Raisonné, Volume III. Nos. 389-651-2, 1976-1987, Ostfildern-Ruit 2013, p. 327, no. 520-3 (illustrated in colour with incorrect orientation).
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent. This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

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Lot Essay

In Gerhard Richter’s Zacharopoulos (1983), leaf greens, bright yellows and blues clash before a blazing vermillion ground. With its incandescent streaks and stuttering veils of colour—some dragged across the surface using the artist’s signature squeegee technique, and others blurred by rhythmic, feathery brushstrokes—it a superb example of his early-1980s abstract paintings, which stand among the most vibrant and striking of his decades-long career. ‘Before Richter began painting Abstract Pictures’, Robert Storr has written, ‘most people would not have thought of him as a colourist ... Since then, it is hard to think of him as anything other than one of the great colourists of late twentieth-century painting’ (R. Storr, Gerhard Richter: Doubt and Belief in Painting, New York 2003, p. 112). The present painting is named for the art historian and theorist Denys Zacharopoulos: a noted scholar of Richter’s work who served as co-director of documenta IX in Kassel (1992) and curator of the French Pavilion at the 48th Venice Biennale (1999), among other exhibitions, and has taught as Professor in the Academies of Fine Arts in Geneva, Vienna, and Amsterdam.

Zacharopoulos stands at a watershed moment in Richter’s practice. While he had been making abstract work since the 1960s, the abstract paintings he created in 1982-83—sometimes referred to as his ‘Wild Abstracts’—reached extraordinary new heights of colour and texture. In 1982, he debuted five dazzling, monumental abstract paintings at documenta VII in Kassel, which to this day remain among the largest works he has produced. As well as their discordant, variegated brushwork and bold palettes—for which the critic Stephen Ellis has found parallels in the German Renaissance, comparing them to the ‘luminous, acid colour of Dürer, Altdorfer and Grünewald’—their surfaces were defined by his use of the squeegee, which he had only begun using on a relatively small scale in 1980 (S. Ellis, quoted in R. Storr, ibid., p. 112). This innovative tool, which introduced a dialogue between chance and intent to his compositions, would play a major role in his work for the following two decades, and introduces its distinctive, staticky drama to the present painting.

Across his career, peaks in Richter’s abstract achievement coincide closely with breakthroughs in his figurative painting, the two poles of his practice operating in conversation with one another. It was during this same period that Richter began his iconic series of Kerze (Candles) and Schädel (Skulls), which remain some of his most beloved photorealistic paintings. These serene, poignant images exemplify the almost Romantic strain to Richter’s work, which fundamentally explores the capacity of painting—whether figurative or abstract—as a mode of understanding. Dietmar Elger, head of the Gerhard Richter Archive, has suggested that the bright and strident ‘Wild Abstracts’ can be seen as an outlet through which the artist could suppress his anxieties about mortality—he had recently turned fifty—in counterpoint to the softly-lit skulls and candles, in which he confronted those fears through an art-historical lens.

In a now-famous statement prepared for documenta VII, Richter explained his abstract paintings as ‘models’ for comprehending the unknowable. ‘Abstract paintings are like fictitious models’, he wrote, ‘because they visualise a reality which we can neither see nor describe, but which we may nevertheless conclude exists. We attach negative names to this reality; the un-known, the un-graspable, the infinite, and for thousands of years we have depicted it in terms of substitute images like heaven and hell, gods and devils. With abstract painting we create a better means of approaching what can be neither seen nor understood’ (G. Richter, ‘Statement’, in Documenta 7, exh. cat. Museum Fridericianum, Kassel 1982, n.p.). With its combination of brilliant chromatic grandeur, gestural brushwork and chance-ridden squeegeed pigment, Zacharopoulos exemplifies the sublime power Richter found in this notion of painting as a dialogue with mystery itself. Witnessing the dawn of a new era in his work, its colours and textures rage against the dying of the light.

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