Post-War & Contemporary Art, London, February 2014

Gerhard Richter’s Abstraktes Bild, 1989

Gerhard Richter’s monumental canvas Abstraktes Bild from 1989 is arguably the greatest Richter abstract ever to come to auction and hails from the high point of the artist’s abstract period (1988-1992). Works from this period are the purest articulation of the artist’s improvised technique. Melting down the length of the monumental canvas in a shimmering iridescence, Abstraktes Bild takes on the characteristics of molten lava burning through a geological stratum of hot colour. Abstraktes Bild's deliberately dense chromatic fusions of blue, purple, orange and magenta punctuated by yellow, pink and turquoise immediately captivates the eye, which revels in the kaleidoscopic depths of colour present.

The American curator and critic Robert Storr could certainly be speaking of this work when he espouses that the ‘layers of pigment have accumulated to the point where the slippages caused by Richter’s scraping techniques result in rich marblings, like those on the endpapers of antique books, although the tactile quality is more like moving lava with trace elements of different minerals providing the attenuated elastic patterns. In other instances, Richter has taken to flaying the painted skin of his canvases with a spatula in broad strokes or long, wavering stripes leaving behind abraded, shimmering surfaces that at their sheerest and most luminous look like the Aurora Borealis suspended above variously red, orange, yellow, green, blue, or violet planets... but in in the unstable painterly terrain saturated hues run together and smear in aggressively impure, sometimes lurid, sometimes garish combinations while the grid itself wobbles and shudders in the ebb and flow of viscous pigment’ (R. Storr, Gerhard Richter: 40 Years of Painting, exh.cat., New York, Museum of Modern Art, 2002, p. 81).

Gerhard Richter’s Abstract Explorations

Katharine Arnold, Specialist in Post-War and Contemporary Art, discusses Gerhard Richter’s Abstraktes Bild, to be offered in the upcoming Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction on 13 February 2014 in London.

Lot Information