Gerhard Richter born 9 February 1932) is a German visual artist. Nearly all of his work demonstrates both illusionistic space that seems natural and the physical activity and material of painting—as mutual interferences. For Richter, reality is the combination of new attempts to understand—to represent; in his case, to paint—the world surrounding us. Richter's opinions and perspectives on his own art, and that of the larger art market and various artistic movements, are compiled in a chronological record of Writings and interviews.
From around 1964, Richter made a number of portraits of dealers, collectors, artists and others connected with his immediate professional circle. Many of his realist paintings reflect on the history of National Socialism, creating paintings of family members who had been members, as well as victims of, the Nazi party. From 1966, as well as those given to him by others, Richter began using photographs he had taken as the basis for portraits.
Richter began making prints in 1965. He was most active before 1974, only completing sporadic projects since that time. In the period 1965–1974, Richter made most of his prints (more than 100), of the same or similar subjects in his paintings. He has explored a variety of photographic printmaking processes – screenprint, photolithography, and collotype – in search of inexpensive mediums that would lend a "non-art" appearance to his work. He stopped working in print media in 1974, and began painting from photographs he took himself.
In the 1990s the artist began to run his squeegee up and down the canvas in an ordered fashion to produce vertical columns that take on the look of a wall of planks. Richter's abstract work and its illusion of space developed out of his incidental process: an accumulation of spontaneous, reactive gestures of adding, moving, and subtracting paint. Despite unnatural palettes, spaceless sheets of color, and obvious trails of the artist's tools, the abstract pictures often act like windows through which we see the landscape outside. As in his representational paintings, there is an equalization of illusion and paint. In those paintings, he reduces worldly images to mere incidents of Art. Similarly, in his abstract pictures, Richter exalts spontaneous, intuitive mark-making to a level of spatial logic and believability.
Today, museums own roughly 38% of Richter's works, including half of his large abstract paintings.By 2004, Richter's annual turnover was $120 million. At the same time, his works often appear at auction. Richter's high turnover volume reflects his prolificacy as well as his popularity. As of 2012, no fewer than 545 distinct Richter's works had sold at auctions for more than $100,000. 15 of them had sold for more than $10,000,000 between 2007 and 2012. Richter's paintings have been flowing steadily out of Germany since the mid-1990s even as certain important German collectors – Frieder Burda, Josef Fröhlich, Georg Böckmann, and Ulrich Ströher – have held on to theirs.
Richter's candle paintings were the first to command high auction prices. Three months after his MoMA exhibition opened in 2001, Sotheby's sold his Three Candles(1982) for $5.3 million. In February 2008, the artist's eldest daughter, Betty, sold her Kerze (1983) for £7,972,500 ($15 million), triple the high estimate, at Sotheby's in London and his 1982 Kerze (Candle) sold for £10.5 million ($16.5 million) at Christie's London in October 2011.
In February 2008, Christie's London set a first record for Richter's capitalist realism pictures from the 1960s by selling the painting Zwei Liebespaare (1966) for £7,300,500 ($14.3 million. In 2010, the Weserburg modern art museum in Bremen, Germany, decided to sell Richter's 1966 painting Matrosen (Sailors) in a November auction held by Sotheby's, where it sold for $13 million. Vierwaldstätter See, the largest of a distinct series of four views of Lake Lucerne painted by Richter in 1969, sold for £15.8 million ($24 million) at Christie's London in 2015.
Another coveted group of works is the Abstrakte Bilder series, particularly those made after 1988, which are finished with a large squeegee rather than a brush or roller. At Pierre Bergé & Associés in July 2009, Richter's 1979 oil painting Abstraktes Bild exceeded its estimate, selling for €95,000 ($136,000). Richter's Abstraktes Bild, of 1990 was made the top price of 7.2 million pounds, or about $11.6 million, at a Sotheby's sale in February 2011 to a bidder who was said by dealers to be an agent for the New York dealer Larry Gagosian. In November 2011, Sotheby's sold a group of colorful abstract canvases by Richter, including Abstraktes Bild 849-3, which made a record price for the artist at auction when Lily Safra paid $20.8 million only to donate it to the Israel Museum afterwards. Months later, a record $21.8 million was paid at Christie's for the 1993 painting Abstraktes Bild 798-3. Abstraktes Bild (809-4), one of the artist's abstract canvases from 1994, was sold by Eric Clapton at Sotheby's to a telephone bidder for $34.2 million in late 2012. (It had been estimated to bring $14.1 million to $18.8 million).
This was exceeded in May 2013 when his 1968 piece Domplatz, Mailand (Cathedral square, Milan) was sold for $37.1 million (£24.4 million) in New York. This was further exceeded in February 2015 when his 1986 painting Abstraktes Bild (599) sold for $44.52 million (£30.4 million) in London at Sotheby's Contemporary Evening Sale.] This was the highest price at auction for a work of contemporary art at the time; Richter's record was broken on 12 November 2013 when Jeff Koons' Balloon Dog (Orange), sold at Christie's Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale in New York City for US$58.4 million.