ASMRt: Frieze Week Richters

From start: Lot 12, Abstraktes Bild 871-9, 2001, image: phillips

Auction houses on occasion write essays for specific works of art. The occasion is the sale of that work, and the estimated value of the work determines whether an essay is warranted. Of the 23 works by Gerhard Richter for auction during Frieze Week, nine are accompanied by essays. The threshold for getting an essay seems to be £200,000.

This episode of ASMRt consists of me reading all nine essays published by Phillips, Christie’s, and Sotheby’s, about the nine most expensive Richters being sold this week.

Besides the obvious emphasis on the artist’s own significance, a recurring theme is the relation of each painting to his most significant bodies of work. Specifically, many works are described as referencing or prefiguring other, better known or more important work.

To finish: Lot 226, Abstraktes Bild 454/1, 1980, image: christie’s

Which, if you think about it, implicitly argues for the relative lower significance of the work at hand. But it is here, it is for sale, and a case must be made, and something must be written.  So here is an hour-long recording that doesn’t need to be listened to of texts that don’t need to be read. Links to the individual lots are after the jump.

download ASMRt_Frieze_Week_Richters [, 49:49, mp3, 23.9mb]

2 October
Lot 12: Abstraktes Bild 871-9, 2001, est. GBP 500–700k, sold 495k
Lot 29: Abstraktes Bild 820-1, 1994, est. GBP 700k – 1m, sold 1.695m

3 October
Lot 139: Abstraktes Bild 475/4, 1981, est. GBP 300–400k, sold 555k

4 October
Lot 7: Brautpaar (blau) (Bride and Groom (blue)), 1966, est. GBP 1.2m–1.8m, sold 3.13m
Lot 11: 7.3.86, 1986, est. GBP 550 – 750k, sold 1.07m
Lot 12: Abstraktes Bild 559-1, 1984, est. GBP 6.5m–9.5m, sold 7.02m
Lot 13: Wiese (Meadow) 549-2, 1983, est. GBP 3.5m–5.5m, sold 3.37m
Lot 217: Abstraktes Bild 445/1, 1979, est. GBP 150–200k, sold 163k

5 October
Lot 226: Abstraktes Bild 454/1, 1980, est. GBP 200–300k, sold 353k


Lot 324: Fuji 839-79, 1996, 14.5 x 11.5 in., oil on alucobond, est. CNY 2.4–3m, sold 3.84m (USD 537k) image:

Below is a bonus track, the lot essay for a Richter Fuji painting (839-79), one of a series of 110 works created and donated to fund the Lenbachhaus’s acquisition of Atlas in 1996. This particular painting was sold by Christie’s last month in Shanghai, and its essay was the first I collected with the idea of recording them for ASMRt. I inadvertently left it in the script after I’d already decided to narrow the piece to the Richters being sold during Frieze Week.

Which is all kind of funny, because part of the delay in posting this entire episode was my factchecking the comparisons made in this essay to Hokusai’s 36 Views of Mount Fuji. I wondered if the title wasn’t just as likely to be a reference to Fuji film or metallic photo paper. (Another essay mentions the shift in color palette associated with Richter’s switch from Kodachrome to Fuji film, and Fuji is the artist’s first work to be executed on aluminum.)

Anyway, I have not found any statements that actually connect these two series, but it underscores the character of these texts. Auction catalogue essays are unusual for addressing a single work, but they are written for the explicit purpose of selling it for the highest possible price. Their style is more academic or critical than public relations/press release, but they are almost never quoted, cited, or discussed. Except in rare cases where celebrity or an author’s name enhances credibility–and saleability–they are never signed.

Download ASMRt_Richter_Fuji_83-79_Christies_Shanghai [, 3:19, mp3, 1.8mb]