Gerhard Richter Calls Angela Merkel’s Refugee Politics ‘False’

There are many un-PC remarks in the 10-minute interview.

Gerhard Richter. Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Gerhard Richter. Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images.

Never one to mince his words, Gerhard Richter has spoken out about Angela Merkel’s politics of “welcoming culture,” calling it “false.”

The top-selling German artist offered his views on the German chancellor when he was interviewed this past September by Anders Kold, curator of the Louisiana Museum in Denmark, in the artist’s Cologne studio. The 10-minute clip has now been posted to the museum’s YouTube channel, and not even the blandest of piano strumming tunes can smooth over some of Richter’s statements—despite the film editors’ efforts.

Richter—whose painting Abstraktes Bild (809-2) (1994), which was in Eric Clapton’s collection, sold for $22 million at Christie’s last night—was asked by Kold for his view on Germany today.

“It has the same or similar problems as all other countries nowadays, […] with this huge wave of immigration” he replies. “And I’m a little more skeptical than Mrs. Merkel, who said ‘we can handle this,'” he adds.

Richter opines that Merkel’s famous slogan, with which she addressed the German public urging them to adopt a “Welcoming culture” towards immigrants and refugees, is “just totally false.”

“We do not welcome refugees” he explains, referring in very broad terms to what he thinks is more natural human behavior. “I have nothing against foreigners, but it’s not true that we have to welcome everybody. I won’t invite them to dinner. Only the ones I know, regardless of whether they’re black or Danish.”

Yet, while attempting to sound tolerant and matter-of-fact (and although the English subtitles use more politically correct terms) Richter actually uses the German N-word.

“But I’m not here to talk about Merkel,” he then waves the topic off, gesticulating with his hand. Cue more elevator music, and the two continue to discuss the power and value of art, and bemoan the loss of beauty in today’s artistic production.

While he must be given the benefit of the doubt for not weighing his words carefully, Richter’s remarks come at precarious times, considering the ugly bigotry unleashed in the recent US elections and the current political mood in Germany, with the spread of nationalist populism giving traction to the far-right AfD party.

Watch the interview below:

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