Grauer Richter Facsimile Object

Gerhard Richter, Grauer Spiegel, 2021, 40×34 cm, pigment on bicoloured glass, ed 100+20AP, image via David Zwirner

Happy belated birthday, Gerhard Richter, who is apparently too busy painting, drawing, and collaging to update his website. The Grauer Spiegel (2021, No. 179, pigment on glass, ed. 100+20AP), included in Richter’s current show at David Zwirner in London is not there. It looks like the pigment is actually on the recto of the glass, a depiction of a mirror, not a mirror itself. But that’s just how it’s photographed. Installed at the Points of Resistance IV: Skills for Peace exhibition at Zionskirche in Berlin in 2022, its mirror nature was on full view.

Grau, [Editions CR: 53], 1973, brushed oil on glass frameless mount, 40x50cm, ed. 60+20AP, overlit image showing the brushmarks and overpainted frame clips via Drouot, I think

But painting on the face of the glass is a thing Richter does, or has done. In 1974, he made Grau, an edition of brushy oil on a frameless glass picture mount, for the Museumsverein Mönchengladbach, the fundraising committee of Mönchengladbach’s municipal Museum Abteiberg.

Grauer Spiegel (Reminiszenz) [Editions CR:164], 2015, 50x60cm, stove-enamelled Grey on the back of float glass, ed. 50+5AP, image via some art auction site or other

When the Abteiberg’s otherwise permanent installation of eight Grau paintings went on loan in 2014, Richter commemorated it with another edition exclusively for the Museumsverein, Grauer Spiegel (Reminiszenz) (2015). The description, “float glass, stove-enamelled with Grey,” sounds more complicated than it is; all sheet glass is float glass, and stove enameling is a lower temperature baked liquid enameling process used on bike frames. More interesting is the restriction that the 50 Museumsverein members lucky enough to buy a EUR5000 edition not sell it before 31 December 2019. They’ve been flipping them ever since, though.

Amidst these variations of greys and glass, I thought again of what it would be to make a Facsimile Object of a Richter mirror. What’s it a facsimile of: the work, or its appearance, the object or an image of it? One reason I call things facsimile objects is to question Richter’s own introduction of a not-quite-art category. [He’s since mostly ditched “facsimile objects” for the museum shop realness of “prints.”] The high-gloss aluminum of a Facsimile Object was not just a nod to Richter’s highly reflective face-mounted acrylics, but to the self-awareness it produces: you see yourself experiencing it.

Study for Grau Richter Facsimile Object [GRFO1], 2024, jpg, via

And so no sooner did I start shopping around for a stove enameler near me, than I realized that a Facsimile Object of a Grauer Spiegel made from a pristine art market photo of a Grauer Spieler would still function just like a Grauer Spieler. But a Facsimile Object of a Grauer Spiegel made from Richter’s photo of Grauer Spiegel (Reminiszenz) would, too, and it would also be something else entirely.

Gerhard Richter at David Zwirner London runs through 28 March 2024 [davidzwirner]