Thursday 6 October 2011 – Sunday 8 January 2012
Gerhard Richter is widely regarded as one of the most important artists working today. Spanning nearly five decades, and coinciding with the artist’s eightieth birthday, Gerhard Richter: Panorama is a major retrospective that groups together significant moments of his remarkable career.
As evoked by the title Panorama this exhibition presents a broad look at the wide range of Richter’s practice, discovering contradictions and connections, continuities and breaks. Each room is devoted to a particular moment of his career showing how he explored a set of ideas. While the focus is on painting, the exhibition includes glass constructions, mirrors, drawings, and photographs, and explores how Richter uses these media to ask questions about painting.
The exhibition includes many of Richter’s most well-known works such as Ema (Nude descending a staircase) 1966, Candle 1982, Betty 1988 and Reader 1994. There are also important works that are rarely shown: the first Colour Chart from 1966, 4 Panes of Glass 1967, a triptych of Cloud paintings from 1970, and, for the first time outside Germany, Richter’s monumental twenty metre long painting Stroke (on Red) 1980, based on a photograph of a brush stroke. There are several groups of important abstract paintings including a room of brightly coloured works from the early 1980s, a room of monumental squeegee paintings from the 1990s, and the Cage series 2006.
Richter was one of the first German artists to reflect on the history of National Socialism, creating paintings of family members who had been members, as well as victims of, the Nazi party. In the late 1980s, looking back to the history of radical political activity in West Germany in the 1970s, he produced the fifteen-part work 18 October 1977 1988, a sequence of black and white paintings based on images of the Baader Meinhof group. At the same time as developing a complex body of abstract work, often using squeegees to drag paint across the surface of his canvases, Richter has continued to respond to significant moments in history. In 2005 he painted September, an image of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York in 2001, which is shown for the first time in the UK in this exhibition.
Richter is often celebrated for the diversity of his approaches to painting. His practice can seem to be structured by various oppositions, with paintings after photographs as well as abstract pictures; traditional still-lifes alongside highly charged subjects; monochrome grey works and multicoloured grids. Some paintings are planned out and ordered; others are the result of unpredictable accumulations of marks and erasures. Richter sometimes maintains these oppositions, but at other times he undoes them. This exhibition shows how he often brings abstraction and figuration together, and explores related ideas in very different looking works. The exhibition reveals breaks and new beginnings in his career, but it also reveals questions that he has asked throughout his life.
Richter was born in Dresden in 1932 and after training in the East, moved to West Germany in 1961. He was part of a group of painters working in Düsseldorf, that included Sigmar Polke and Konrad Lueg, who turned to image-based painting during the emergence of American Pop art. Major solo exhibitions include the 36th Venice Biennale in 1972, his first large-scale retrospective at Städtische Kunsthalle und Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, Düsseldorf in 1986 and Forty Years of Painting, a large-scale retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2002. He installed Black Red Gold in the foyer of the Reichstag building in Berlin in 1999 and the window that he designed for Cologne Cathedral was completed in 2007. Richter lives and works in Cologne.
Gerhard Richter: Panorama is curated by Nicholas Serota, Director, Tate, and Mark Godfrey, Curator, Tate Modern with Amy Dickson, Assistant Curator, Tate Modern, with colleagues in Berlin and Paris. The exhibition has been organised in association with Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, where it will be curated by Udo Kittelmann and Dorothee Brill, and the Centre Pompidou, Paris, where it will be curated by Alfred Pacquement, Camille Morineau and Lucia Pesapane. The exhibition is accompanied by a major new catalogue.