I was kind of baffled when I saw this Richter in Christie's February sale in London, and I've had it on my desktop ever since. It's called Cage Grid I, and it's a 16-panel giclée print [!!, oh how I hate that word] mounted on aluminum that reproduces the 2006 squeegee painting, Cage 6, basically at 1:1 scale.
In fact, if you include the small gaps between the 75cm square panels, the giclée version is slightly larger than the 3x3-meter painting. It pulls the painting apart instead of occluding it with a grid overlay. Though there are digital prints and inkjet prints in the artist's CR, Cage Grid is the only edition listed as a giclée. There are both complete editions Cage Grid I and 16 individual quadrants, Parts A-P, Cage Grid II.
Richter has chopped up his paintings before, turning full-size squeegee paintings into a series of tiny squeegee fragments. He's made giant gridded photo panels before, like Strontium (2004), at the deYoung Museum. He's got reconfigurable grid paintings [mounted on Aludibond, btw], like 4900 Colours.
And he's made photo versions of paintings before. These 1998 Orchid offset prints are done at full-scale of the 1997 painting, but cropped in five different ways. Herr Heyde is a little 2001 offset print on Aludibond that's the same size as the little 1965 painting. [Richter favored offset prints, then a few c-prints, before going digital, except for Ice 2, a 2003 half-scale reproduction of a 1989 squeegee painting that's actually a 41-color screenprint.] There's 1:1 Uncle Rudi (2000), and the 1996 photo edition of the painting of the photo of his wife, which I thought would make a good Richard Prince nurse painting. Seven Two Four (2005) are 1:1-scale blurred photos of a 1990 squeegee painting. [A painting for which Richter has atypically posted 21 detail photos.]
Wow, when you shoot it that way, the 1:1 photo edition of Mustang Squadron (2005) looks amazing, and not at all like a bridge line version of the couture original. Speaking of which, back in 1998 Richter made a 1:1 photo edition of 48 Portraits, his landmark blurred painting grid from the 1972 Venice Bienale.
And this is one thing that nags at me about Cage Grid: even if I buy the arguments about photo vs. painting, experimentation, or materialist variation, I feel like what's actually being sold is iconic sameness. It's not so much the Capitalist Realism that--actually, yes, it's the capitalist reality that gets me, but not the supply, the demand. I feel less undone by the artist churning out a towering Kinkadian pyramid of merch than by the critico-consumer desert criss-crossed by collectors, institutions and speculators that swallows it up.
It's not that Richter makes readily monetizable editions of iconic works he loans to museums. [The Cage series is at Tate. Modern. The Cage Grid prints were actually sold by Tate Modern, during the 2011 Panorama retrospective.] It's that despite my ambivalence, I want some. [Oh, look, that Mustang Squadron that sold at Phillips in 2006 is up for sale at Sotheby's.]
14 Feb. 2014, Lot 120: Gerhard Richter, Cage Grid I (Complete Set), 2011, 15/16, plus 4ap, sold for £566,500 [christies.com]
15 May 2014, Lot 243: Gerhard Richter, MUSTANG-STAFFEL (MUSTANG SQUADRON), ed. 39/48, 1 AP, est. $250,000-350,000 [sothebys]
Previously, uneasily related, partly because I only just now remembered I had similar qualms about a similar situation last year: Gerhard Richter's Septembers