Presentation of the Gerhard Richter Collection

Fe­bruary 1 to May 1, 2022

The Mu­se­um Lud­wig is pre­sent­ing a con­cen­trat­ed ex­hi­bi­tion in hon­or of Ger­hard Richter’s nineti­eth birth­day. From Fe­bruary 1 to May 1, 2022, the Mu­se­um Lud­wig will be show­ing a se­lec­tion of five works by Ger­hard Richter (born Fe­bruary 9, 1932) from its col­lec­tion. The ex­hi­bi­tion will fea­ture fig­u­ra­tive works de­pict­ing peo­ple and ob­jects as well as ab­s­tract paint­ings and works com­prised of panes of glass and mir­rors.

The Mu­se­um Lud­wig in Cologne, which Ger­hard Richter him­self has jok­ing­ly re­ferred to as his “home­town mu­se­um,” holds some of the artist’s most im­por­tant works. His paint­ings Ema (Nude on a Stair­case) from 1966 and Five Doors from 1967 were part of the orig­i­nal do­na­tion to the mu­se­um from the col­lec­tors Peter and Irene Lud­wig in 1976. Ad­di­tio­n­al do­na­tions and purchas­es fol­lowed, such as Richter’s monu­men­tal con­tri­bu­tion to the Venice Bien­nale 48 Por­traits from 1971–72, the paint­ing War (Ab­s­tract No. 484) from 1981, and lat­er 11 Panes of Glass from 2003 as well as Two Grey from 2016. The lat­est ad­di­tion is Nine Ob­jects, a port­fo­lio of off­set prints cre­at­ed in 1969, which the Per­len­such­er ini­tia­tive from the Ge­sellschaft für Mod­erne Kunst am Mu­se­um Lud­wig ac­quired for the mu­se­um in 2021.

While Ema (Nude on a Stair­case), the first col­or “pho­to paint­ing” in Richter’s oeu­vre, is a large-scale, blurred re­pro­duc­tion of a pho­to­graph of a pri­vate sub­ject, Five Doors is part of his se­ries Con­struc­tions. In th­ese works, Richter us­es reg­u­lar­ly struc­tured mo­tifs such as bars, win­dows, or cur­tains to cre­ate il­lu­sions of spa­tial­i­ty that ques­tion the paint­ing pro­cess as such as well as the view­er’s ideas about the pic­ture. The for­mal­ly re­duced, ev­ery­day se­quence of an open­ing door, which gra­d­u­al­ly re­veals a view of an emp­ty, in­defi­nite space, shows Richter’s in­ter­est in play­ing with il­lu­sion and re­al­i­ty “be­hind” the pic­ture as well as our ex­pec­ta­tions, their ful­fill­ment, and al­so their un­der­min­ing and dis­ap­point­ment. Along with the five-part paint­ing, sev­er­al ac­com­pany­ing draw­ings that were al­so add­ed to the col­lec­tion in 1976 will al­so be shown. Five Doors will be pre­sent­ed again for the first time af­ter an ex­ten­sive res­to­ra­tion (Septem­ber 2018 – May 2019) fund­ed by the state of North Rhine-West­phalia.

Richter al­so cir­cles around the ques­tion of im­ages as il­lu­sions in his dif­fuse­ly re­flec­tive ob­jects, such as Two Grey and 11 Panes of Glass. The mul­ti­facet­ed sense of vi­su­al space that the artist cre­ates with the means of paint­ing is con­jured here in the ma­te­rial it­self, in the enam­el coat­ing on im­mac­u­late­ly smooth float glass and the ne­b­u­lous sense of depth of the re­flec­tion in spe­cial­ly coat­ed glass panes po­si­tioned in suc­ces­sive lay­ers.

The ex­tent to which such di­s­ori­ent­ing el­e­ments that ques­tion our own per­cep­tion and artis­tic il­lu­sion­ism run through Richter’s en­tire oeu­vre is evi­dent not least in Nine Ob­jects from 1969, a group of off­set prints based on pho­to­graphs that the artist took of woo­d­en ob­jects that he built him­self. The pho­to­graphs, which were pro­fes­sio­n­al­ly re­touched in an unsettling man­n­er ac­cord­ing to the artist’s di­rec­tions, il­lus­trate Richter’s ex­am­i­na­tion of il­lu­sion and re­al­i­ty. As he notes: “Il­lu­sion—or bet­ter ap­pear­ance—is my life’s theme.”