planned from 10 February – 29 May 2022
A special exhibition of the Kunstbibliothek – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin in cooperation with the Gerhard Richter Archive, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, the Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther und Franz König, Cologne and the Nationalgalerie and Kupferstichkabinett – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
To celebrate Gerhard Richter’s 90th birthday, the Kunstbibliothek is mounting the first major retrospective of his artist’s books in Berlin’s Neue Nationalgalerie. The books, for which Richter consistently drew on his own imagery and experimented with abstract processes, are indispensable for understanding his oeuvre and self-image as an artist. With works from the Kunstbibliothek, the Nationalgalerie and the Kupferstichkabinett, as well as loans from the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden and the Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther und Franz König the exhibition provides unique insight into the artist’s inner world.
Gerhard Richter (born 9 February 1932 in Dresden) is one of the world’s best-known and most successful contemporary artists. For decades his art has fascinated many through its painterly methods, intelligent subject matter and consistent changes in working methods, from the first blurred grey paintings based on photographs to the colourful abstract works. Richter’s first artist’s book was produced in 1966 in collaboration with Sigmar Polke. Since then, books have become essential to understanding his works and self-perception as an artist.
In this exhibition in the Neue Nationalgalerie’s Graphic Gallery, Richter’s artist’s books are presented together with prints from the Kupferstichkabinett and complemented by the large abstract painting Atelier from the Nationalgalerie collection – a work paradigmatic of his oeuvre. The Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther und Franz König, which has published almost all of Gerhard Richter’s artist’s books, has provided numerous publications that can be lend themselves to perusal, further reading and discovery. Valuable special and limited editions, preliminary designs and letters from the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden’s Gerhard Richter Archive round off the special exhibition.
Three themes run through the exhibition: The Image of the Artist explores how Gerhard Richter has staged himself as the creator of his paintings. His self-image as a painter emerged in books and catalogues, prints, invitations and posters in response to the many variations and shifts in society’s expectations of an artist. He made use of parody, masquerade and play, with particular emphasis on irony and humour, in his efforts to avoid being pinned down to one style of painting. The Image of Photography shows the photographic reproductions correlating to his painted pictures that enabled Richter to separate the paintings from their original image media and gain distance. New contexts emerged in books through his use of photographic enlargement techniques to the level of extreme detail. In the books, countless photographs by Gerhard Richter replaced images previously sourced from the press. They were overpainted with lacquer or included in the atlas, an extensive archive of the artistic work. The exhibition’s third section, The Image of Chance, reveals the interplay of calculation and chance in Gerhard Richter’s work. In his search for new pictorial subject matter, he brought chance into play as the artist’s counterpart. Inspired by John Cage’s and Steve Reich’s compositions, he used chance to dissect and reassemble the texts in books in controlled operations or to experiment with the dynamics of colours and patterns in images.
The exhibition also provides a glimpse into what will become an intense cooperation between the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin’s collections with the future Museum des 20. Jahrhunderts at Berlin's Kulturforum. The Kunstbibliothek and the Kupferstichkabinett will have their own exhibition areas at the Nationalgalerie’s new venue to present their rich collections.
The Gerhard Richter Art Foundation is providing 100 works to the Nationalgalerie for its Museum des 20. Jahrhunderts as a long-term loan – including important individual paintings such as Besetztes Haus (1989, Squatters’ House) and series of works such as the four-part Birkenau (2014) cycle. Beginning in 2023, selected works from the loan will be presented in the Neue Nationalgalerie’s Graphic Gallery. After completion of the new building by Herzog & De Meuron, they will be displayed in the space dedicated to Gerhard Richter’s art on the museum’s upper floor.
Numerous works by Gerhard Richter are already part of the Nationalgalerie collection, including major paintings such as Vorhang III (1965, Curtain III) and Seestück (See-See) (1970, Seascape [Sea-Sea]). As early as 1986, the Neue Nationalgalerie hosted the special exhibition Gerhard Richter. Bilder 1962–1985 on its lower level. This was followed in 2012 by the large retrospective, Gerhard Richter: Panorama, in the upper hall.
Gerhard Richter.Artist's Books is curated by Michael Lailach, head of the Kunstbibliothek’s Book Art Collection.
A catalogue published by the Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther und Franz König, Cologne, accompanies the exhibition. Gerhard Richter: Künstlerbücher 1966–2021, an annotated catalogue raisonné of the books and original contributions in other publications, is in preparation by the same publisher.
Due to the pandemic situation the exhibition dates are subject of change. Please visit our website for current information: www.smb.museum
For more information and high resolution images please visit the press section of the website of Staatliche Museen zu Berlin: www.smb.museum/en/press
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