On the occasion of its opening, the Espace Louis Vuitton Beijing is presenting an unprecedented exhibition dedicated to German artist Gerhard Richter. This presentation has been produced in the framework of the Fondation Louis Vuitton’s “Hors-les-murs” program, showcasing previously unseen holdings of its collection at the Espaces Culturel Louis Vuitton in Tokyo, Munich, Venice and Beijing, thus carrying out the Foundation’s intent to mount international projects and make them accessible to a broader public.
Since the early 1960s, Richter has created a paradoxical body of work that sits somewhere between figurative and abstract art. Classically trained as a painter, throughout his oeuvre Richter has maintained a lifelong fascination with the power of the image and painting’s long, uneasy relationship with photography. His early works depict enlarged black-and-white photographs, often from newspapers or his family albums, painted using only a range of greys. Richter blurs the depicted subjects, deviating from traditional figurative painting, in order to distinguish painting from photography. He believes that whilst either medium may claim to reflect or express reality truthfully, either ultimately suggests only a partial, or incomplete view of a subject; offering a far less objective meaning than originally assumed. Working alongside but never fully embracing the late 20th century art movements such as Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art, Minimalism, and Conceptualism, Richter has consistently absorbed many of their ideas whilst remaining sceptical of their grand artistic and philosophical ideologies. This is evidenced through the artist’s remarkably varied body of work, including photography-based portraits, landscape and still-life paintings, gestural and monochrome abstractions, and colour chart grid paintings, where themes of chance, realism and abstraction are prominent.
In 2008, the National Art Museum of China presented for the first time the work of Richter with a series of paintings from 1963 to 2007. Today, the Espace Louis Vuitton Beijing invites the public to continue the discovery of this internationally recognized artist. Richter is an iconic artist of the Fondation Louis Vuitton Collection, which holds a number of his very significant works. A whole room was devoted to Richter’s work at the inauguration of the building in 2014. It was thus obvious to show a version never before exposed—Version VII—of Richter’s kaleidoscopic work, 4900 Colors (2007) in this new venue of Beijing. Composed of 196 panels, each consisting of 25 coloured squares that can be arranged in 11 core configurations, this work pursues the artist’s early investigation of colour field paintings which he began creating in 1966 by replicating, in large scale, industrial colour charts produced by paint manufacturers. It epitomizes Richter’s practice, and his constant quest to ultimately “desubjectivise” painting. In this regard, it seemed important to show a work emblematic of the artist’s oeuvre in painting, which is the privileged medium of Western tradition.
Also part of the Fondation’s Collection, Strip (920-1), Strip (921-2) and Strip (921-5) (2011) are presented to further enhance the artist’s interest in the relationship between painting and photography, these works being in fact digital prints of augmented photographs taken of a previous squeegee painting created by the artist in 1990.
Gerhard Richter was born in Dresden, Germany in 1932. He now lives and works in Cologne. Classically trained as a painter, his vast oeuvre consists of a paradoxical body of work that sits somewhere between figurative and abstract art. Richter has represented his country at the Venice Biennale in 1972 and was included in (d)OCUMENTA, Kassel, in 1977, 1982, 1987, 1992 and 1997. Solo exhibitions of Richter’s work have been organized by major museums such as the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco (1989), Tate Gallery in London (1991), Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid (1994), Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin (1997), Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin (2002), Museum of Modern Art in New York (2002), Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. (2003), Kunst Museum in Bonn (2004), National Museum of China in Beijing (2008), and National Portrait Gallery in London (2009).