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

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

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

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

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


Pedro Pontes

Kicks major butt!

Seimon Morris

I just wanted to say what a wonderful exhibition this is. I have adored the Cage Paintings for a few years now, but was completely unprepared for what I saw. I found the experience incredibly moving, particularly the paintings of Aunt Marianne and Uncle Rudi, which seem so nostalgic, and the 18 October 1977 room. Thank you for putting on this exhibition. I have been round it twice now, and intend to visit it many more times before it closes. Thank you also for the excellent audioguide.

Irene Renshaw

I thought the Richter 'retrospective' was excellent, in that it successfully showed the breadth and depth of his work over the years. I found it thought provoking as a viewer and also as an artist myself. Aside from the paintings and installations, there was plenty of absorbing material to exam to see where the ideas came from. His monumental abstract paintings were well exhibited, as were his smaller pieces. I liked the suddeness of seeing Betty on its own with space around and also the tension generated in the Baader Meinhof space where they were grouped to good effect.


loved it. Would have preferred better graphics for the text. Not everything is about the audio visual

Dizzy Buckteeth

I loved this show - had a major epiphany about art and possibilities - I think the opportunity came as the result of the juxtaposition of a few things : the greatness of the art, the fact of its being a comprehensive retrospective (ahhh s- so wonderful) - and the really great story telling in the commentary

I went for dinner after ina glorious haze of thoughts and feelings, referred back to the little book with its comments, wrote down all my thoughts- I thought so HARD! and - as I said - had an epiphany that was very important to me personally

wnderful experience

the Tate Modern is ALWAYS a wonderful experience


Ulrich Schulte


Gerhard Richters exhibition in Tate was very great to look at for me and my daugther. I would say it was No. two for us from what we have seen in your house. No. one is still Francis Alys!


Uli Schulte Bremen Germany

Michael Richards

This is an excellent exhibition, well curated and presenting the variety of Richter's work extremely well. My partner and I were fascinated, challenged and intrigued in equal measure. However I find Richter himself strangely absent and his work ultimately rather cold. Only in the paintings of his wife and daughter did some warmth come through, and even then one looked in vain for the 'hand of the artist' himself in these rather literal portraits. At times the exhibits seemed like a short history of late 20th century art produced by a gifted parodist. Perhaps we were missing something, but compared to the work of Anselm Kiefer or Willem de Kooning - whose retrospective at the NY MOMA I saw a few weeks ago - we wondered where the passion and the joy of making art was in many of these works.

Helen Stokes

The exhibition was extensive and very interesting. A wide range of works and the constant juxposition of abstraction and almost photographic approaches within Richters work.

Definately a must see show. Helen


i didn't know anything about him so the exhibition was a real discovery for me.Enjoyed it a lot. best pictures were the Cage room and betty, but enjoyed a lot of the others. found the room featuring the baader meinhof group very moving

Zelda B

Inspiring and original artist. Brilliant work. Well curated exhibition. Bravo!

Annie Bowie

I Loved it. Was moved and provoked both intellectually and emotionally. Loved it well done


I had one day in London. Left terminal 5 to Paddington. Then went to Piccadily. At the Waterstones went to the Arts floor. Which were the exhibitions in town? There was Degas at the Royal Academy, Pipilotti Rist at the Hayward, John Martin at the Tate and Richter at the Tate Modern. Took the taxi to Southbank and had a look at Pipilotti. Actually i was tired and took a nap at one of her video-installations. Comfortable pillows on the floor allowed me to mix dreams and those sexual organs shown on the video. quite an experience. then of course i went to see richter nearby, not forgetting to grab some food before as art on an empty stomach is heavy. Well, I must say I loved those painting based on Cage. They made me think and understantd the meaning of chance on art. The rest was also interesting, with things well-known as those blurred photographs mixed with others not so as those diaries. I have no doubt this is a great artist. But the message of, say, Kiefer is still more poignant.

Dr. Hubertus Ho...

Dear Sir,

as I know Richter from our meeting in 1988 when he received the Kaiserring in the charming Museum of Modern Art (Mönchehaus) in my home town Goslar in Germany and I even got from him a signed Kerze Poster, I admire him and his art since then.

The exibition is great, but the Baader-Meinhof text in one room must be re-written:

It is pure propaganda and is a shame for the Tate and the curators and even Richter as well. It is mocking the 34 dead victims of these criminals, not even mentioning those murders repeats their propaganda and is belittleing the killings in a perversion of thinking. It is like you add to all memories of the IRA propaganda like "..some say they were freedom fighters for free Northern Ireland." and do not mention the victims.

Act now and change! best wishes Dr. Hubertus Hoffmann

jeremiah quinn

This is the best exhibition Tate Modern has ever staged. I took a friend the other day, and we imagined afterwards being able to save only five works from the whole exhibition - the rest would be burned. We each picked and then changed our minds over and over again, unable to decide.

Jose Florido

I went to see this exhibit on 11/11/11 at 11 with my niece. Perhaps this cabalistic numbers where an indication of a good thing; I was not disappointed. It was one of the most comprehensive exhibits of an artist I have seen in a while. My kudos to the curators for giving us a remarkable show.

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

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.

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.

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!

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 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


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.

Ralph Adron

Skillful scene-painting, paint effects.


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).

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.

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.

Werner Müller

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

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.

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.

Carlos Asp


Rob Hutchings

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

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.

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.


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


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.

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.

Giuliana Ferri

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

Rick Gaskell

Fantastic !!

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

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.


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???

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.

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

daryl boylan

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

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!

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:

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.

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

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.


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.


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.