‘Gerhard Richter’s Works Belong in This City’: In a Major Long-Term Loan Agreement, the Artist Will Send 100 Works to Berlin

The collection will eventually be housed in the new Museum of the 20th Century, set to open in 2026.

Gerhard Richters Birkenau Cycles (2014). Photo ©SPK/photothek.net/Xander Heinl/©Gerhard Richter 2021.

The celebrated artist Gerhard Richter and members of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation met in Cologne today to sign a major long-term loan agreement that will provide the Nationalgalerie in Berlin with a formidable collection of 100 artworks by the 89-year-old painter.

The works are destined for a dedicated gallery within the German capital’s Museum of the 20th Century, which is currently under construction and expected to be ready in 2026. Before the new museum opens, Richter’s works will be on view from 2023 at the Neue Nationalgalerie, the landmark Mies van der Rohe-designed building next door, which recently underwent a major renovation by David Chipperfield.

The collection includes 40 paintings and 60 overpainted photographs by Richter. Highlights include his 1989 Besetztes Haus, a grainy black and white picture of a squatters’ house, as well as color-coated glass works like Spiegel, grau (Mirror, Grey) from 1991 and later painting series like 4,900 Colors from 2007. His horizontally stretched striped colorfield painting Strip from 2013 is also in the bundle.

<i>Grauer Spiegel</i> (2019). © Gerhard Richter 2021.

Grauer Spiegel (2019). © Gerhard Richter 2021.

But the most anticipated work in the loan is the four-part Birkenau cycle, one of Richter’s most important painting series reflecting on the atrocities of the Holocaust. Richter has said that the abstract works, which are based on documentation from the Birkenau concentration camp, must never go to market.

It is a delightful award that these works will find their home in Berlin,” Richter said.

The works will initially be on view on the walls of the Graphics Cabinet of the Neue Nationalgalerie before they move to the planned €450 million ($521 million) Museum of the 20th Century being designed by Herzog & de Meuron. It will be located at the Berlin Kulturforum alongside the Gemäldegalerie, the Neue Nationalgalerie, and the Museum of Decorative Arts.

“Gerhard Richter’s works belong in this city,” said Hermann Parzinger, president of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, which oversees both museums. “It is an incentive for us to make the Berlin Kulturforum a place where the art of the 20th-century can not only be viewed, but where it stimulates and can irritate and trigger debates that always open up new perspectives.”

Joachim Jäger, managing director of the Nationalgalerie and interim head of the Neue Nationalgalerie—until Klaus Biesenbach takes over in January 2022—called the bundle of Richter works “a sensation.” He added that “hardly any other artist has shaped the development of recent art history as much as Gerhard Richter.”

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