Best of: Gerhard Richter in the Neue Nationalgalerie
Works for Berlin. This is the name of the exhibition that has been on view at the Neue Nationalgalerie since April 1, 2023. On display are the very 100 works that gave the exhibition its name and were made available as a long-term permanent loan by the Gerhard Richter Kunststiftung. Among the paintings are works from all creative periods of the artist, such as the "Birkenau" cycle or also "4900 Farben" (2007) or "Übermalte Fotografien" (since 1986). In addition, more recent abstract works from 2016/2017 are also on display. In the future, the collection will be shown in a separate room of the Museum of the 20th Century. The building is currently under construction next to the Neue Nationalgalerie, with plans to open in 2026, so it's all the better that the artworks can already be seen in the Neue Nationalgalerie's graphic cabinet: Paintings, mirrors, overpainted photographs as well as color sketches.
The “Birkenau” cycle from 2014 plays a central role in the exhibition. Starting from 4 photographs from the concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, which were secretly taken by prisoners in 1944 at the risk of their lives and only published after the end of World War 2 in 1967, Gerhard Richter dealt intensively with this part of German history. Richter first transferred these photographic motifs to canvas with charcoal and oil paint, then painted over them again in abstract. Through the many individual, newly applied layers of paint, a new, abstract image was created on the old work. From his point of view, he could not otherwise do justice to the claim of adequately depicting the horror. Through the subsequent abstraction of the original work, he wanted to create a space between “showing and not showing.” Both the role of art and its possibilities in processing the horror of the Holocaust, as well as the four artworks created in the work cycle, enable an examination of the past, reappraisal and dealing with the future, as well as the representability of this inconceivable horror.
Many individual parts make a whole
Gerhard Richter was fascinated by the perfection, accuracy and reproduction of colors on color swatch cards, as well as the possibilities of varying these colors in countless sequences among each other. This fascination gave rise to the painting “4900 Colors” in 2007, which is composed of 196 individual fields. It was also the impetus for him to deal with it again in 2013/16 and to rework one of his “Abstract Paintings” from 1990 for his work “Strip”. He segmented it by computer into smaller and smaller elements, mirrored them and rearranged them. The seemingly random strips were thus subjected to a deliberate ordering by the artist. The result was a 2 x 10 meter work that is also presented in this exhibition.
View inside the exhibition
In addition to large-format paintings, whose colors Gerhard Richter applies with a squeegee, the exhibition shows many pictures from the photo series, which were painted over and alienated by oil paint.
Richter created a three-part wall installation of color-enameled glass panels for the German Bundestag in 1999, which includes the small-format painting “Schwarz, Rot, Gold” (Black, Red, Gold) in the current exhibition.
1. April 2023 until 2026
Cover Photo: “Strip” by Gerhard Richter ©kischreport