Gerhard Richter's gift to Berlin now on show - Hindustan Times
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Gerhard Richter's gift to Berlin now on show

By, Delhi
Apr 02, 2023 01:43 PM IST

Berlin's Neue Nationalgalerie museum presents 100 works by Gerhard Richter, on long-term loan from his art foundation.

The "Gerhard Richter: 100 works for Berlin" exhibition promises to be a magnet for visitors. Gerhard Richter is one of the most highly regarded contemporary artists in the world, which makes the collection of paintings the artist gave to the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation in 2021 on permanent loan, shortly before his 90th birthday, very valuable.

German artist Gerhard Richter. (Rolf Zoellner/epd/imago images)
German artist Gerhard Richter. (Rolf Zoellner/epd/imago images)

In determining the distribution of his estate, the artist left his birthplace, Dresden, and his hometown, Cologne, empty-handed. Richter chose Berlin, which celebrated the decision as a "sensation."

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The approximately 100 works are now on display at the Neue Nationalgalerie, and they are earmarked to find a home in the future Museum of the 20th Century.

The current exhibition was developed in close collaboration with the artist.

Focus on 'Birkenau' cycle

Nearly 90 works from several creative phases since the 1980s are on display beside Richter's "Birkenau" Holocaust cycle, including photographic-like paintings made with his characteristic wiping technique, such as "Squatters' House" (1989), "4,900 Colours" (2007) and "Strip" (2013/2016).

The show also features overpainted photographs, in which Richter explored the field of tension between photography and painting.

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Richter's four-part "Birkenau" (2014) cycle — large abstract color canvases, crisscrossed with deep gray streaks and complemented by triplets of green and red — take centre stage at the Berlin show, however. The works were created from photos secretly taken by a Jewish prisoner in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in August 1944.

'Picasso of the 21st century'

Art critics like to refer to Gerhard Richter, who lives in Cologne, as the "Picasso of the 21st century." In fact, the Dresden-born artist is one of the most successful contemporary artists. His works hang in the world's most important museums, where they fetch record sums on the art market. The art world has showered him with prizes.

Richter shares little more than fame with Picasso, the pioneer of modern art in the 20th century. Even though the German artist also loves women and married three times, unlike the illustrious Spanish artist, Richter shies away from the limelight. He rarely gives interviews and avoids the stomping grounds of the glamorous art world.

What he does have in common with Picasso is that he has moved from one style to the next while other artists were just discovering them.

This can be observed through his early Pop Art paintings and first attempts at abstract expressionism in the early 1960s, which he declared to be "Capitalist Realism." It was Richter's ironic and consumer-critical response to Socialist Realism, the official art doctrine in East Germany at the time

Richter's trademark: Stylistic disruption

He has painted landscapes in the Romantic tradition, cloud paintings and seascapes, still lifes and portraits. Richter has brought representational painting into the age of photography.

He has reinvented himself over and over again, at times with photorealistic depictions of nature or blurred paintings, or with glass and mirror objects, installations and overpainted photos, as well as large-scale paintings with bright colors.

Constant stylistic disruption are the hallmark of his art. Few artists have explored the possibilities of painting like 91-year-old Gerhard Richter.

The exhibition "100 Works in Berlin" will be on display at the Neue Nationalgalerie from April 1, 2023 to 2026.

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