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


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!

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.

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!


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.


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

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.


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.

Rosie Kearton

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


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

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.

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!

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.


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...

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

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