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  • 7/25/2019 Richter Polke Catalog



  • 7/25/2019 Richter Polke Catalog


    Essays byRobert BrownFaith ChisholmDietmar Elger

    Jill LloydAxel Hinrich Murken

    and Crista Murken-AltroggeKenny Schachter


  • 7/25/2019 Richter Polke Catalog


    Published in Great Britain

    by Christies International

    Media DivisionJubilee House,

    213 Oxford Street

    London, W1D 2LG

    This catalogue was

    published on the occasion

    of the exhibition



    Curated by

    Darren Leak and

    Kenny Schachter

    Christies Mayfair, London

    103 New Bond Street

    London, W1S 1ST

    25thApril 7thJuly 2014


    Darren Leak

    [email protected]

    T +44 (0)207 389 2025

    Jacob Uecker

    [email protected]

    T +44 (0)207 389 2400

    Design by

    Micha Weidmann Studio

    Christies photography by

    Steve Ward

    Cover: Sigmar Polke

    and Gerhard Richter at

    galerie h, Hanover, 1966

    Courtesy Gerhard Richter


    Gerhard Richter, 2014


    Francis Outred

    Bed, Bath & Beyond

    Kenny Schachter

    galerie h

    Dietmar Elger

    galerie h 1966 polke/richter

    catalogue text

    Sigmar Polke and Gerhard Richter

    Reflections on Gerhard Richters

    Paintings of Human Subjects

    Axel Hinrich Murken and

    Crista Murken-Altrogge


    Nihilism and Alchemy

    Faith Chisholm

    Gerhard Richter:

    Photorealist and Abstract Painting

    Jill Lloyd

    Kunst Macht Frei

    The Art of Sigmar Polke

    Robert Brown

    Exhibited Works










  • 7/25/2019 Richter Polke Catalog



    We cannot depend on good paintings being

    made one day: we need to take the matter into

    our own hands!

    If someone wants to become a painter, he

    needs to consider first whether he wouldnt

    be better suited to some other activity: teacher,

    minister, professor, manual worker, assembly

    line, because only truly great people can paint!

    ( Sigmar Polke and Gerhard Richter, catalogue textfor polke/richter, 1966 )

    The names Polke and Richter, like Picasso andMatisse or Freud and Bacon, are so regularly linkedthroughout art folklore that it is incredible to thinkthat they have not had a two-man show since their1966 exhibition at galerie h in Hanover. Unlike theseother celebrated pairs, Richter and Polke were thebest of friends from the start, forming an instantbond when they met in Karl Otto Gtzs class atthe Dsseldorf Kunstakademie in 1962. They wereborn within seven years of each other (1934 and1941 respectively ) in East Germany as the Naziregime overtook first Germany and then wagedwar in Europe. Polke fled to the West and settledin Dsseldorf in 1953, while Richter did the samein 1961. Growing up in a time of extreme social andcultural disruption, when daily reality was filled withhorror, and developing as artists in a period whenthis reality was being rejected in favour of totalabstraction in the 1950s, the pair came together ata kind of Ground Zero in post-war art history. At thispoint, the movements of pure abstraction in Americaand Europe had virtually run their respective coursesand the obituaries for painting were being written.

    However these artists chose this moment to begina complete and utter deconstruction of painting,to strip it back to its bare bones and rebuild whatcould be conceived as the possibilities in painting.From this moment on, both embarked on painterlyprojects which not only completely revived the ideaof painting in the post-modern period but injectedenergy, surprise, enjoyment and intellect into theagenda painting became exciting again. They tookall pre-existing styles in painting and threw them intothe mixer, creating magical works which have becomemore and more influential to the point where it is hardto think of any painter emerging today who cannotcount one of them as a direct influence. Although theirfriendship waned towards the end of the 1960s, theirart would continue to respond to each others overthe next 50 years until Polkes sad passing in 2010.

    For me, the annus mirabilis for these artistswas between 1994 and 1995, the year of Richterslandmark retrospective in Bonn and Polkesretrospective at Tate Liverpool. As an art student atthe time, I travelled to see both of these revelatoryshows: to encounter two such rich evocations ofthese artists work in a single year was inspirationaland opened my eyes and mind to myriad new ideasabout the power of painting. Although both artistsstarted from similar foundations of thought, thepursuits of their projects could not have been moredifferent. Along the way a few similarities arise interms of the imagery used: their pursuit of black-and-white in the 1960s for example, whether it bein the Rasterbilder of Polke or the photo-paintingsof Richter, or their gradual merging of figurationand abstraction in the 1980s. It is, however, theirdivergent approach to a similar philosophy over a

  • 7/25/2019 Richter Polke Catalog


    8 9

    fifty year period that makes the prospect of bringingthem together for this rare exhibition so special.Richter has been the meticulous architect of his owncareer, remaining in virtually the same environmentin Cologne over the entire period, categorising eachpainting and painstakingly cataloguing every workhe makes in his exhaustive catalogue raisonn.Polke, on the other hand, pursued a purposefullyanarchic approach to picture-making, travelling allover the world, getting lost in the 1970s in So Paulo,Afghanistan and Pakistan, using a wide varietyof media alongside paint, such as photography,sculpture and film-making. He has also experimentedwith multifarious materials in his work, from thefabrics on which he paints, to the use of a varietyof chemicals and even uranium as he has pursuedan alchemists approach to the investigation of thenature of paint. Like a chess player, Richter hasalways thought six moves ahead of his next paintingas he mapped out his course, while Polke haspursued his own impulsive and maverick coursepeppered with moments of genius.

    The photograph from 1965 of the Richter andPolke families having breakfast together providesan insight into their relationship at the time, bothdressed in a similar suit and tie. Polke already hadtwo children and above the table are two paintingsby Richter and one by Polke. The tongue-in-cheek nature of Polkes Wurstpainting contrastsdirectly with the apparent seriousness of OnkelRudi, Richters painting which would go on to beincluded in the 1966polke/richterexhibition, andwas the only one of Richters paintings includedin their collaborative artists book that served asthe catalogue for the show. Also included in the

    exhibition was Richters painting of Sigmar Polkesfamily with him as a child Mann mit zwei Kindernmade from a photograph given to him by Polke.The catalogue for our exhibition has been conceivedas an homage to this original artists book, whichwas smaller in proportions. We have also sourcedtwo paintings from the original exhibition, FlmischeKroneby Richter and Bavarianby Polke. We wouldparticularly like to thank the anonymous lendersof these two works, alongside the many otheranonymous lenders to this exhibition who havehelped to make it so comprehensive.

    Taking these two works from the 1966 exhibitionas a starting point, this show charts an almostchronological path for both artists over the past fivedecades. It aims to present juxtapositions betweenRichter and Polke that we hope will stimulate thoughton how these two artists continuously reinventedpainting, incorporating new techniques and mediainto the art form and most importantly usingit as a medium for exploring their philosophicalideas about the role of painting in the post-modernperiod. Aside from the astounding selection of earlywork, where we see Richters black and white blurcast against Polkes dots, I am particularly lookingforward to seeing the installation of the room ofRichters 1980s landscapes and bringing togethera group of PolkesLaterna Magica from the sameperiod. Richters landscapes present the mundanenature of suburban landscape, however his defthandling of the photo-real approach and subtle shiftof light and tone elevate these views to a magicalstate of almost dream-like being. On the other hand,Polkes Laterna Magica, executed on clear resin thatmakes them double sided, create a kind of child-

    Sigmar Polke and Gerhard Richter,at Gerhard Richters house, 1965Courtesy Gerhard Richter Archive

    Gerhard Richter, 2014

    Catalogue cover: galerie h, Hanover, 1966Courtesy Gerhard Richter Archive

    Gerhard Richter, 2014 The Estate of Sigmar Polke, Cologne,

    DACS 2014.

  • 7/25/2019 Richter Polke Catalog


    10 11

    like wonder. Endlessly mysterious, his attempt tocompose multiple layers of imagery through a thintransparent veil invites us to dream in a different way.

    We are fortunate that this exhibition has benefittedfrom the collaboration of so many talented individuals.I would like to thank Kenny Schachter, the co-curatorof this show with Christies Darren Leak, for bringingthis project to our attention and for his unwaveringenthusiasm and commitment, as can be seen in hisengaging introduction to this catalogue. He hasbrought an American viewpoint to this show,reminding us of connections to Robert Rauschenbergand Jasper Johns in his text and providing a differentcultural perspective on the work.

    I would also like to thank Darren Leak for curatingthis exhibition with an unwavering eye, and