Gerhard Richter Is Selling Over $1 Million of His Art to Help Build 100 Houses for the Homeless

The German artist is donating 18 works to fund the initiative.

German painter Gerhard Richter poses in front of his works Abstrakte Bilder. Photo ARNO BURGI/AFP/Getty Images.

A major donation from Germany’s most famous—and most expensive—living artist, Gerhard Richter, will help finance the construction of 100 units of permanent housing for the homeless in the North Rhine-Westphalia of Germany, a region that encompasses Düsseldorf and Cologne.

The works—a special edition of color offsets from 2015 that are part of Richter’s ongoing series “Cage f.ff”—are available as three sets of six. They are being offered by fiftyfifty, a magazine and charitable organization for the homeless. The hand-signed works are priced at €420,000 ($493,080). They may also be bid on individually through fiftyfifty’s website.

All told, the sale is expected to generate €1 million to €1.2 million for the Housing First Fund, which seeks to provide people experiencing homelessness with permanent housing. Richter’s donation will be augmented by €424,000 ($497,477) in state funding, North Rhine-Westphalia announced on Wednesday.

Gerhard Richter’s Cage II, one of the 18 works the artists is donating. Courtesy fiftyfifty.

After fiftyfifty launched Housing First in 2014, it began buying up real estate in Düsseldorf to rent to homeless people throughout the city, giving them their own leases and helping them with furnishings. The organization has previously offered editions by artists including Andreas Gursky and Jeff Koons. Richter also donated works to the initiative in 2015.

“Years ago, we explained the concept for housing the homeless to Richter,” says Julia von Lindern, the head of the Housing First project at fiftyfifty. “Right away, he was sure that it could work and the benefit of the sale of his works could and should be spent on the apartment project. That was the beginning. Now we are trying to transform that idea around the larger region.”

The latest round of fundraising will allow the Housing First Fund to extend the concept across the North Rhine-Westphalia for the first time. (Alongside fiftyfifty, the charity organization Parity NRW is a major supporter of the pilot project.)

Richter has been based in the region for decades, though he recently resettled in Cologne after living in Düsseldorf for many years. He studied at the art academy in Düsseldorf before becoming a professor at the school until 1993. There are an estimated 2,000 homeless people in the city, which is one of Germany’s priciest.

Last year, Richter was listed as one of Germany’s richest people; he has an estimated fortune of around €700 million ($821 million).

The 86-year-old artist has been in a particularly charitable mood in the past year. Last summer, Richter announced he would give his series “Birkenau” to the German Reichstag and donated a photographic version of his famous painting Aunt Marianne (1987) to a memorial in Saxony dedicated to the victims of forced euthanasia under the Nazi regime. Last September, he volunteered to donate a site-specific work to the city of Münster in Westphalia.

We reached out to Richter’s Düsseldorf gallery for comment on the latest gift, but did not receive a response by the time of publishing.

“It’s a win-win situation,” says von Lindern. “You can own a beautiful picture by Gerhard and you can also doing something really beneficial for the homeless.”

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