Yesterday Gerhard Richter: Panorama opened to the public.

Gerhard Richter Mark Godfrey Nicholas Serota

Tate curator Mark Godfrey, artist Gerhard Richter and Tate Director Nicholas Serota looking at Richter’s Court Chapel, Dresden 2000 seen through Richter’s 6 Panes of Glass in a Rack 2002–11

Courtesy Bettina and Donald L. Bryant Jr Collection, The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, USA and Private Collection
© Gerhard Richter

It was really amazing to go up into the galleries after all the hard work of the last two weeks (and two years) and to see so many people looking at the show. It has been a wonderful few days: the artist came for the opening, and was very pleased to see how the installation had turned out. 

Gerhard Richter Barn Meadowland and Abstract Painting

Installation view of Gerhard Richter’s paintings, from left; Barn 1984, Meadowland1985 and Abstract Painting 726 1990

© Gerhard Richter courtesy The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, USA and Tate. Photograph: Lucy Dawkins, Tate Photography

Long term friends, curators who have made important shows with him, studio assistants, dedicated and passionate collectors of his work - all these people were here to celebrate the opening. On Wednesday we had a packed out talk by the art historian Benjamin Buchloh, who has written on his work since 1977 - a talk which looked in great detail at Richter’s responses to painters like Lucio Fontana, Jean Fautrier, and Robert Rauschenberg in 1962. And yesterday we screened Corinna Belz’s film ‘Gerhard Richter Painting’ in which (amongst other things) she shows Richter in the act of painting the large horizontal white abstract painting in the 13th room of our show. (This will be screened regularly during the show - check the website for details). 

Gerhard Richter a visitor walks by Forest

A visitor walks by Gerhard Richter’s Forest (3) 1990 and Forest (4) 1990

Private collection and The Fisher Collection, San Francisco
© Gerhard Richter Photographt: Lucy Dawkins, Tate Photography

I am looking forward to people coming to the show but also to being a viewer myself, and getting to spend so much time with the work. Each time I walk through the show, more questions come to mind: what different painterly techniques did Richter work with in 1962 and 1963 to achieve the strange surfaces of the first paintings in the show such as Table and Dead, all made before he began to ‘blur’ his photopaintings? Did Richter know much about Leni Riefenstahl when he painted Negroes (Nuba) in 1964, based on one of her images of the Nuba (Room 1), and if so, what of it? How much was he thinking about recent American abstraction when he made the weird small abstract paintings in Room 2? How was it that he came to paint a Moonscape in Room 3 the year before the moon landing? How odd are the colours of the skies in the Cloud triptych in Room 5, which I did not see in the flesh before last week? How can we think about the early 1980s abstracts in Room 6, where Richter placed geometric shapes next to brash brushstrokes? The arguments that these are mere parodies of painting miss the mark as much as the suggestions that they are spontaneous expressions of painterly joy… 

Gerhard Richter Abstract Painting

Gerhard Richter’s ‘Abstract Painting’ (1997)


© Gerhard Richter. Collection High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia, USA

Gerhard Richter Betty and Chinon

Installation view of two works by Gerhard Richter at Tate Modern. Left: ‘Betty’ (1988) and right ‘Chinon’ (1987)

© Gerhard Richter. Courtesy Saint Louis Art Museum, Saint Louis and Musée national d’art moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris, France. Photograph: Lucy Dawkins, Tate Photography

How exactly does Richter peel paint off the surface of an abstraction such as Abstract Painting (above) on view in Room 10 and expose an underlayer in such a pristine way? How does he prepare an aluminium surface before beginning to paint on it for the 858 paintings (Room 10)? These are questions I will be discussing with our painting conservator, Rachel Barker, on this blog in a few weeks. 

Why is it that the subjects of so many of his portraits since the 1980s - not just Betty (above) -  were looking away from the camera when the photos on which the portraits were taken were made, and what does it mean - as we look at the paintings - that they averted their gaze? What could we make of the connections between these portraits and the glass works where we, as viewers, are portrayed, but always as ghostly reflections? What might we make of the range of photographs that have been the basis for the photopaintings of the last ten years - photos of flowers, of the World Trade Centre attacks, of his daughter Ella? For me, one of the great pleasures of curating is to open up these questions in such a way that they can be considered in front of the works rather than in the lecture hall or with a book in your hands. So please let me know your thoughts - and check back to this blog where I’ll be giving some tentative responses as the weeks go by.

Mark Godfrey is co-curator of Gerhard Richter: Panorama

Comments

Professor John ...

Dear Mr. Godfrey,

I thought this a very good exhibition which shows Richter's work very well.The arrangement of work is very good. The paintings are well hung; the other constructions well sited. The annotations are useful and intelligently describe the context of his work and something of the process of thought through which the artist moves.

Professor John Matthews

kim logan

Loved it, totally fabulous. It was a pleasure to spend time walking round and taking it all in. I loved it the first time I saw it and have taken a friend to see it since,and I have arranged to take another after Christmas. I particularly loved the glass plates and cage work.

Excellent job..! x

BC

Beautiful exhibition. Such a pity about the information panels, throughout the show: the comments made me weep. All about suggesting personal views to interpret what the artist might have thought or tried to say. Why wasn't the artist asked directly? Perhaps his answers would be too simple, and some art critics couldn't show off their hair splitting talent...

Philip Vessey

I could visit this exhibition every day. Much to see and think about. As a painter I too work in both abstract and realistic ways and it's made me think about my own way of painting. My only disappointment- not hearing Richter talk about some of his work in the audio guide.

April Spencer

Loved the vivacity of the abstract colour work. Enjoyed the variable moods of the reflective waters. he can certainly do a portrait - soft focus- amazing!

April Spencer

Loved the vivacity of the colour abstract work. Enjoyed the variable mood of the water reflections. He can't half paint a portrait - loved the soft focus.

Antonio

Both Richter's work and the curatorial element of the exhibition are very engaging - I found the experience inspirational and somehow uplifting!

Rosie Kearton

wonderful to see such a breath of work spanning his long career - I loved the glass pieces particularly

Maja

absolutely fantastic exhibition. I have been twice and will be back many more times. Great selection of work, presented in a good order just fantastic art - Richter is one of my absolute favorites. Take the Audio Guide - it's well done and definitely worth it.

Paul Dungey

I very much enjoyed the exhibition. My experience of being at the Tate was however seriously marred by discovering that the Tate accepts sponsorship from the environmentally damaging BP. By allowing BP to promote themselves via the Tate you associate yourselves with this environmenally irresponsible company. I would urge you to diassociate yourselves fom BP and the dirty Oil Tar Sands project and other environmentally destructive projects which it pursues.

Mike

Whenever I experience art like this I want to know more about the actual process of making it; there was very little on this. That would be my only criticism, the work was new to me and really good to see. Thanks

Filippos

Mark, you have done an amazing job with this exhibition. I am an admirer of Richter's work and was counting the days till the opening. I also thoroughly enjoyed Buchloh's talk and the Gerhard Richter Painting screening. I will be in the galleries very often during the next 2-3 months asking myself the very same questions. Richter seems such a complex artist and yet in his answers in interviews such a simple, straight forward thinker (to the point that sometimes I am wondering if we are overanalyzing things and reading too much into them). Some of the questions you posed might be easier to answer (after all, word might have been out that the moon landing was going to happen in a few months...I am not sure about the secrecy surrounding the event back in the 60s), others a lot more complicated. And honestly, I think that even Richter himself might not be able to give us a definite answer. I was recently reading his 1986 interview with Buchloh and at times there is a certain degree of uncertainty in his own replies (that interview, however, does provide us with great information about some of his thoughts while painting certain subjects). I am looking forward to reading your posts in the next few weeks. Thank you so much for such a great exhibition.

Juhee Lee

I'm a curator working in Seoul. I'm flying to London to see this exhibition in December. (That's the only time I can use my year off! Can't really wait till then)

By the way, Mark, I enjoyed your class when I was studying art history in London. I'm sure your hard work for this show is being rewarded.

I will leave a proper review in December!

caroline masom

As a newcomer to Richter's work, I was most struck by the combination of contrasts (vivid colour, grey tones; huge abstracts, intimate representational works) and a clear sense of a consistent underlying something - vision? Voice? An absorbing exhibition which I hope to come back to soon.

Jo Simon

I fell in love with 'Betty' many years ago, but only recently realized the breadth and diversity of Richter's work. I thoroughly enjoyed this retrospective and particularly the juxtaposition of different styles of work. Just one thing missing - John Cage's music in the open room dedicated to the Cage paintings - it really would have been the final touch!

Chas Perrett

I came out wondering what all the fuss was about. True there were a few impressive pieces dotted here and there but as a whole I found the Richter exhibition bitty and unconvincing. I didn't leave feeling I had seen a major show.

O M

I would like to draw your attention to two important mistakes in the description of Richter's work:

Onkel Rudi: Rudi is portrayed as a member of the Wehrmacht that is being described as a Nazi organisation. The Wehrmacht was the regular German army during the Third Reich and should not be confused with the Waffen SS, the armed wing of the Nazi organisation.

Baader Meinhof: The Baader Meinhof terrorist group is described simply as hunting former Nazis in Germany. The Baader Meinhof organisation was a terrorist unit that wanted to change the political and economic order of Germany. To describe the group as Nazi hunters is to almost justify their actions which would be a complete whitewash of their terrorist acts.

The above suggests disregard for crucial facts about Germany's history and should be corrected.

O M

rosalyn wilkinson

thought-provoking: seeing the range and spread of his work makes it difficult to avoid the sense that it has been an uneasy, ruminative and talented commentary on a period suffering a loss of confidence in the medium. some pieces i would have loved to have taken off the walls and gone home with. for others, the audio-guide provided toe-curlingly groupie-like enthusing that surely would bring a smile to Richter's face? overall, a really good show.

john hargreaves

an excellent show... i came to see the cloud paintings, my only contact with his work previously and was excited by the range and development of his work. major changes in style and approach from room to room could have been the work of many different artists. the parallels with other artists were strong and led to much thought and speculation. the clouds painting that i can recall from a distant exhibition were not displayed, but so much else has given me ideas for my own work. Thank you

leveau christa

Thank you for your very pertinent comment - I entirely agree with you and should think it rather respectless towards the artist who obviously needs to make statements about his (and my) country's history.

Its amazing that the work of an artist having the stature of Mr. Richter is described in such a sloppy way.

Hans Verhaegen

20 years ago I saw the retrospective in the Tate Gallery as an art student. Gerhard Richter was/is my long distance teacher. Some months ago I saw the Miro show. With Gerhard Richter's work the spaces in the Tate Modern seemed suddenly so small. Strange. With the current show, I especially enjoyed the new movie. Be sure to watch the new film 'Gerhard Richter Painting' by Corinna Belz. (available on DVD) You will be watching Richter at work in his large studios. You will understand why these abstract paintings are so amazing. You will see also a very funny and sensitive painter, artist. There is nothing hard to understand about his work. It is painting, just painting. The sound of the squeegee will hypnotize you. The film also gives a good insight look at the art world behind a great artist like Richter. It is a serious film about art that will make you smile. I wrote more comments on the current show here: http://www.hansup.be/gerhard-richter-prints.

Simon Mallett

I thought the exhibition was stunning. Richter's work is diverse and, at times very beautiful. Some of the best works provoked very strong thoughts and feelings for me - whether they were intended to or not. A truly wonderful show!

daryl boylan

Super -- in my opinion, the greatest living artist.

mosh kashi

thank you so much for this exhibition . i came to london just to see this exhibition and i felt that it was as dream to see all the works that i know from books apear in the real size . long time after it i m under the imprestion of all the beautiful works that i had seen .

thanks you again !!

mosh kashi .tel aviv

Chris Couse

For many years, I have found Richter's work compelling but bafflingly diverse, with seemingly no coherent thread to connect the pieces. Only a retrospective this comprehensive could have provided me with the instinctive understanding I now feel for the impulse behind his work.

Quoted in the exhibition, John Cage's remark: "I have nothing to say and I'm saying it" speaks equally well of Ricther's work. Coming of age in East Germany in the remains of Dresden with an inate ability to paint like an old master but surrounded by a shattered world where beauty was nonexistant, ugliness was rampant, and values were tainted, Richter had no meaningful application for his prodigious talent. Richter is explaining to us in each work that the world presents almost nothing worth painting or making art about and therefore the painter must withdraw from control of the image and allow chance, photography, or a rigorous but value neutral process to make the pictures. His role as painter is only to select and transcribe or frame the random visions that he encounters or that emerge from his processes. Only late in his career do we see inklings that some issues hold meaning for him (paintings of family members, the Baader Meinhof pictures, 09/11) but even in these images, he has allowed the camera to compose the subject, adding suggestions of his feelings about the subject through his brushwork and use of colour.

Rarely have I seen an exhibition that helped me to connect with the artist as much as with the works. This outstanding exhibition, because of its breadth allowed me to do so. It has given me food enough for years of thought.

linsiejaybee

My friend Tony revived my interest in Gerhard Richter and I was so pleased to visit the exhibition in London. ( I live in Germany).The online booking worked out superbly. You were all most helpful.Thank you very much.I felt that the TLS review offered more depth than the audio guide. As most people did not have the audio guide their noise spoilt concentration. That is a personal thing . The exhibition certainly teased my mind: abstract colourful art juxtaposed e.g. Betty's head or even a mirror. GR's glass pane contructions forced me to re-think space and glass and reflection. Wonder what Elton John thinks about the Candle in the Wind???

Anthony Jones

Well worth the admission fee. And the cost of the train fare to London, and the coffees!

I feel however, having been a fan of his for 20 years, that the amount of abstract works could have been slightly trimmed, because as a whole they were bordering on visual overkill.

I went round the show with a painter friend of mine and we both enjoyed the discussions the works generated between us. We found that the abstracts were individually stunning, my favourites were the ones that seemed to have a limited colour palette, because these were optically more subtle I felt they had a more lasting effect on the senses when compared to the almost visual shock palettes of some of the others.

The figurative works produced much more discussion. Not just about the subject matter which was totally intriguing, but from our point of view, the techniques he used. We wanted to examine them very closely but obviously unable to due to security etc. One of the aspect of these canvases that fascinated me was the 'architecture of the edges', some were pristine and clean-cut and some had the residue of the working process. Some revealed more of the artist-craftsman that Richter is, some less so.

His black and white Baader paintings were disturbing and magnificent with blacks as deep as coal pit.

The exhibition was, I feel the best thing about Tate Modern. The remainder of the exhibits throughout the building paled into almost visual insignificance at the side of Richter's work.

I also like the way he defies the so-called 'gallery system' of compartmentalising artists and this is underlined by the placing of figurative works between abstracts... putting up the proverbial two fingers to all those smart-asses who think an artist should only produce one style of work because it suits their marketing plan.

On the whole, the show of Richter's work was magnificent and an emphatic vindication of those of us who believe in the power of manipulating paint on a surface.

Chris Weallans

Before this exhibition I only knew of Richter as an abstract artist and to find such wonderful photography and figurative painting merely enhanced the high regard I have for him. The idea that figurative and abstract are somehow separate is confounded by the cloud painting, clearly clouds and clearly abstract. Of course there is no division, "art is abstraction".

But as to Richter it is his ability to leap from discipline to discipline with no discernible loss of ability, Moreover there is his agile imagination and endless fund of creativity making the whole show one of the best I have ever experienced

Rick Gaskell

Fantastic !!

Giuliana Ferri

I have visited the exhibition three times now, and everytime I discover something new. Incredibly stimulatinfg, thank you.

kay Chaffer

For me this was an introduction to Richter's work and the exhibition was well structured for this with lots of information about the genesis and making of the paintings at the same time as space (and seats !) to allow contemplation. I also appreciated the accompanying film season. Watching 'the German Sisters' after seeing Richter's paintings gave new insights into both works. I will certainly visit the show again.

anis

i am a lover of gerhard s'painting since long time.i congretulet for his very prestigious show of our time.i am also wishing good health and prosperous life for him.god bless you.

Sophia

Truly fantastic exhibition, I can't wait to see it again before it's gone.

Christopher Road

I have now been twice. I am enormously taken by Richter - for what I see as his honesty, courage and inventiveness as well as his artistic skill. I am particularly impressed by his blurring technique as a way of suggesting that all is not as it seems - the contrast between image and reality is a fundamental philosophical problem and it is fascinating to see it rendered in art. Thank you very much.

Vaughan Clark

Great exhibition! I liked Richter's paintings 'Himalaya' and 'Townscape Paris' rather than his abstract work. Nevertheless a good opportunity to see the range of Richter's work.

Rob Hutchings

The least representational pieces are the most thought provoking, the more represntational pieces closer to my comfort zone

Carlos Asp

ARTISTA PLÁSTICO 62 ANOS, VIVO NO SUL DO BRASIL, CONHEÇO MUITO DA PRODUÇÃO CONTEMPORÂNEA EM ARTE, ATRAVÉS DESTE ÓTIMO SITE DA TATE MODERN, E AGORA ESTE ÍCONE DA ARTE ALEMÃ, DEVE AMPLIAR MAIS ESTE UNIVERSO. TENHO UM AMIGO ALEMÃO DE KÖLN, COLECIONADOR DE ARTE E BIBLIÓFILO QUE FALAVA-ME ANIMADO SOBRE ESTA MONUMENTAL MOSTRA QUE AGORA ESTÁ ABERTA. PENA QUE EU NUNCA TIVE A OPORTUNIDADE DE VISITAR AS MAGNÍFICAS SEDES DAS TATE GALERIAS NA INGLATERRA. C.Asp

Antonia Dewhurst

I should have been prepared having read Richter's writings and seen reproductions many times, but 18th October 1977 moved me to tears. I'm less convinced by his abstracts but then I'm not a painter and they're clearly an important aspect of his work and essential for context. The room with the prints and photographs seemed a little busy; maybe it looks better without people in it. Overall a great show.

Nana Shiomi

I was so happy to find that his work was very very printmaking! He used photograph as a template of his work, used squeegee to fix his image on canvas and the most importantly he loved mirror. Perhaps he needed something to trace or indirect power to his work. I think this makes him a very printmaking painter. When we stand at the front of a picture, we only see what we want to see. So probably I just saw what I wanted to see from his picture as a printmaker.

Werner Müller

The exhibition was perfect. The Audioguide should have a german language.

mike stoakes

i'm not even sure if gerhard richter is a painter, though you couldn't imagine these works being in another medium. they are bad faith paintings at best, an abc grammar of painting so intentional there is little room for speculation and accident. it is seductive, civilised, technique dependent, and extremely conservative work. every corporation should have one. no promise of an end of state capitalism here. and why do people compare him to duchamp? the work has nothing to do with duchamp apart from a literal rending of a nude descending a staircase. richter himself has said his work isn't enough. damn right. try harder.

Carol Wilcox

This is the second time I've been to this exhibition and, the second time around, I was as moved as I was the first time. It only confirmed to me the extent to which Richter's work has influenced my own painting. Such a huge body of work revealed Richter as not only an artist but a human being with whom I, or anyone, could empathise, experimenting and unafraid to tackle areas hitherto unexplored. He is the artist's artist.

Bertrand

Thank you to the Tate Modern for offering the opportunity to see such kind of exhibition. Some Richter's works are dark (specially these concerning the war of course) and the best are the pictures with the explosion of colours : the contrast is very clear when we visit room after room in this exhibition (from the dark in the beginning to the colours after).

Ralph Adron

Skillful scene-painting, paint effects.

Beth

Being one of the friends who accompanied Serena to the Richter retrospective yesterday. I have to thank her for introducing me to him and this fantastic exhibition. I was not entirely ignorant of his existence, but certainly of his genius and his story. I thoroughly enjoyed all the works,and found the way his work was curated very interesting. I would perhaps have liked a bit more information on his thought process as to how and why it was curated in the way in which it was. So thank you Tate Modern for bringing Richter to London, and thank you Serena for taking me to Richter.

jean-philippe Vernes

dear sir, I went along with a young art consultant friend who was enthusiast about it. As a contemporary art collector, I was extremely happy to see such a thorough display of works by Richter..It shows how he was able to transcript and reinterpret the trauma of History to resonate in part of his work, in a subtler manner that an Anselm Kiefer.The metaphorical work of his uncle posing in a Wehrmacht uniform in front of a wall was telling...in the same vein the work of the World Trade Center under attack is a masterpiece..and the Baader paintings a good representation of another trauma...telling the story but with intention that the viewer reflects more than being shocked. The grey paintings were astonishing and so is the didactic display of explanation of use of colours evolution. one can see that the reference to art history is ever present be it correspondence with Marcel Duchamp works or in the correspondence with medium of photography in his painting..a throughly contemporary artist.Painting is not over ! Full mark to the curator of this exhibition and to Tate Modern.

Jean-Philippe Vernes

Roger Woodiwiss

This was an excellent, probably unique, opportunity to see the entire span of Richter's work - the show I thought beautifully presented, and coherently arranged. I am an artist myself - I do not have a signature style, working simultaneously on very different projects, I have worked both abstractly and figuratively, I have no idea at all about any perceived 'meaning' in my work,concentrating on the making instead, I routinely work from existing imagery, I have an interest in everyday, apparently mundane subject matter and in working within established genres veering at times towards illustration and kitsch. I was therefore always predisposed to like the show and I did!

Klaus Hinke

The Gerhard Richter exhibition impressed me very much for three aspects mainly: The great variety of his approach; the wonderful paintings in traditional style of his daughter's head, of his wife with her head turned etc.; and the haunting images of the dead Red Army Faction members, the self-styled 'revolutionaries' that shocked Germany in the late seventies. They tried to shake up the petrified structures of German society with the wrong means and with terrifying results.

Hans-Ulrich Gärtner

Till now, I saw parts of the works of Gerhard Richter in some museums and exhibitions. Only for this collective exhibition I was the day in London from Cologne Airport to Modern Tate. Congratulations, a very impressive and structured show, at the end I have learned more to understand Richter, his production methods and intentions.

Lynette Martyn

Thank you tate modern for an awe inspiring exhibition. I was blown away by the creative expression of Richter over such a long period of time. Each room opened up more suprises. I took the audio description which I found very helpful in understanding his work and methodology. A wonderful exhibition!!!

regards Lynette

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