Life-sized portraits of lap-sized, wide-eyed poodles aren’t the only thing Sotheby’s is selling tomorrow. It’s also selling one of Gerhard Richter’s greatest paintings, 4096 Farben, CR-359, (1974). The 64×64 grid of 1024 different colors, each painted somewhere four times, is sort of a capstone of Richter’s color chart project. At least until the Köln cathedral windows, of course. And those are not for sale.
I get it, it’s been six years since Gerhard Richter announced he’d “retired from painting,” but after several months of press releases and invites for a show of “new and recent” work, it still came as a shock to read David Zwirner describing the show opening last night as containing “a group of Richter’s last paintings, made in 2016–2017.”
Of course, what it technically means is, “last paintings on canvas.” Or “last squeegee paintings.” Which still shocks to think about; I, for one, would like him to still be painting. But given the artist’s incredible physical exertion while making the squeegee paintings in Corinna Belz’ 2011 film, Gerhard Richter Painting, it’s understandable. I’m still trying to think through what to make of it, though, and to see what Richter’s making now.
This painting, Mathis, from 1983, strikes me as a very good transitional painting, and was recognized as such by a serious collector who kept it for decades. That did not, apparently, drive interest to the level Phillips had estimated, and so all the work of contextualizing this painting was at risk of being lost, or at least under-appreciated. Not now though.
Clearly it worked, because Richter put out Eis 2 as a signed edition of 108 (plus 27 proofs) on Somerset. They started popping at auction about three years ago, and in the last year have sold for $56-$90,000.
Brand X also printed 500 copies of an unsigned poster version on slightly taller, narrower Somerset, with the Lincoln Center/List Art Posters caption. Same image dimensions (40 x 32 in.), same screens. These ur-Facsimile Objects sell for just a couple thousand dollars.